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Digitized by the Internet Archive 
in 2010 

Spring 1985 • ''The Magazine With A Bad Attitude" • ISSN 0735-9381 
Mailing Address: Processed World, 55 Sutter St. #829, San Francisco, CA 94104, USA 

Pi^©CE$$EP WOI^B.^ 13 

Letters 2 

from our readers 

Kelly Call Girl 16 

fiction by kelly girl 

Sweet Relief 25 

fiction by jake 

The Way It Was 28 

reminiscence by ana logue 

The Oppressed Middle 33 

review by lucius cabins 

Poetry 34.5 

Graffiti 41 

photo essay by zoe noe & acteon blinkage 

Mind Games 46 

article by tom athanasiou 

Once More Unto the Bridge, Dear Friend 59 

tale of toil by primitivo morales 

Hot Under The Collar 65 

high-tech workers, eradicating tv, good 'zines 

Subscription Information 68 

Cover graphic by Melinda Gebbie 

All of the articles and stories in Processed World reflect the views 
and fantasies of the author and not necessarily those of other 
contributors or editors. 

PW welcomes contributions of all kinds. For written material, 
however, please do not send your original; even with an 
S.A.S.E., we cannot guarantee its return. 



CREDITS: Helen Highwater, Maxine 

Holz, Primitivo Morales, Doug, Ana 

Logue, Acteon Blinkage, Lucius Cabins, 

Paxa Lourde, Bea Rose, Stephen Marks, 

Linda Thomas, Zoe Noe, Louis Michaelson, Melinda 

Gebbie, Med-o, Melquiades, Tom A., Jake, Emily, 

Frog, Pauline Slug, Friends of the Toad, Kelly Girl, 

Gene Eric Mann, and many others... 

Dear Processed World, 

I wanted to write a letter about my 
fascinating work history, but it is just 
too depressing for me to write about it. 
As to my present situation, I am 
surviving on welfare and various cash- 
creation projects like sewing and 
providing friends with exotic spices. 
Life is not good, but it's not bad either. 
Soon though, I fear that employment 
will rear it's ugly head. The possibilities 
boggle the mind — will it be in the wilds 
of Scarberia? The frozen North York or 
the dreaded Rexdale? Two hours every 
day of rush-hour insanity and eight 
hours of boredom in between. I doubt if 
the experience of being employed will 
be worth the money I am paid, in terms 
of my peace of mind. Yes, it's 
depressing being unemployed, but it's 
even more depressing to sell your time 
for money. How sad that this is 
considered "normal" and "healthy," 
like drinking alcohol, getting married, 
and having children. Personally speak- 
ing, I refuse to bring any more human 
beings into this world. We dump shit 
into the oceans, shit into the air, we 

poison the planet with radiation, the sky 
rains acid! The long-range effects of 
mass poverty and unemployment are 
just beginning to intensify. Outrage and 
despair, from the punk to the 
40-year-old WASP male who shoots his 
wife and kids, then turns the gun on 
himself. Death is preferable to the 
purgatory of the welfare system. Is the 
world ready for revolution, or annihi- 

... I find writing to be cathartic, like a 
mental purgative. Even if it is just 
ranting and raving, it sure feels good to 
put it down on paper. It is also quite 
draining to untangle all the hypocrisies 
and dig out the truth, which most 
people don't want to hear anyway. I 
have always had great respect for the 
truth and those who speak it. Because in 
the final analysis, it will not be the 
politicians or messiahs who will be 
remembered, it will be some tattered 
punk band shouting- "TOMORROW 
IS ... TOO LATE! " 

I led the fairly "normal" existence of 
a baby-boomer until the age of 14, when 


I discovered marijuana and Chinese 
philosophy (Lao Tzu, I Ching). From 
that point, my young consciousness 
expanded rapidly through the use of 
hallucinogens and certain reference 
books (Huxley, Alpert, After 
drugs, I discovered love, or more 
exactly, sex, another aphrodisiac. Like 
most of my generation, I put off 
employment as long as possible, and 
got a job only when absolutely 
necessary. I somehow muddled my way 
through 28 years of crazy times, bad 
love affairs and dire straits in my 
hometown of St. Catharine's, Ontario, a 
pleasant enough place to grow up in, 
but socially stagnant. It is only recently 
that I have found domestic bliss in the 
Big City with a good man and my 3 fine 
Siamese cats... 

In Processed World, I find a sane 
voice in the midst of madness. Keep 
that good stuff coming! 

L.T.— Toronto 

Hello Friends! 

It's good to know that "wasting 
time" at work costs business $150 
billion a year, according to a recent Wall 
Street Journal blurb (well, we all know 
that the "work" we do is wasting time, 
so there seems to be some justice in 

It's a nice way to let off steam to 
arrange your day to get your personal 
business done at work... "down time" 
is one way to make yourself feel a little 
more in control of the situation. 

However, this is merely a sympto- 
matic and temporary "band-aid" 
solution to a much bigger dilemma... 
namely that most jobs are boring, 
repetitious, degrading to the human 
spirit, etc. 

It seems our efforts should be 
directed towards changing the structure 
of the working world, rather than 
through random, individual acts of 
sabotage, wasting time, "liberating" 
your company's office supplies, etc... 
As for myself I decided to stop 
attending the Processed World collating 
parties, meetings at the North Beach 
bar, picnics, etc., because at every 

function the main theme was cynicism 
and drowning the collective angst in 
alcohol and dope. 

I got .a great deal from the friends I 
made at Processed World. . . namely the 
feeling that I was not alone in my utter 
frustration and despair at having to be 
an office worker... However after 
spending time with PW folks and going 
to the events, I just realized that you 
criticize basically everyone from the 
Sandinistas, corporations, the govern- 
ment, the powers that be, other 
anarchists, etc. The main problem that I 
encountered ideologically with the PW 
philosophy is that cynicism is the 
prevailing emotion and criticism is the 
basic thrust of the publication. 

As for myself, I am a skeptic, I look at 
things from a distance before 
embracing them, and I have a strong 
sense of an impulse to question things. I 
see this as merely having your wits 
about you to survive in the urban 
jungle. . . But what I found lacking in PW 
was a sense of hope, romance, or even a 
spiritual outlook. In general the 
graphics are entertaining, the dedica- 
tion of the volunteers sincere, but in 
general the editorial content is sneering 
and sarcastic. 

After looking a little more closely at 
the main movers of PW it seemed fairly 
uniform that the lifestyle was strongly 
involved with junk food, alcohol and 
dope as a buffer to deal with anxiety, 
alienation and despair... 

I may very well be wrong, but these 
were my gut feeling impressions. Still I 
want to encourage magazines such as 
yours to continue and flourish. It does 
give an outlet for ordinary people to 
express their vision of the future, their 
dreams, their pain and exploitation. 

As for myself, I can only say that 
doing office work for 15 years gave me a 
very strong self-destructive impulse and 
poor self-esteem and self-image. After 
wrestling with my self and festering in 
emotional convulsions from being an 
exploited but quite uppity secretary I 
finally decided once and for all to make 
a career change and do the type of work 

Processed World 

that really makes me feel ALIVE and 

I decided to quit office work, and 
recently graduated from professional 
culinary school and I'm on my way to 
becoming a chef. Of course, not 
everyone has the opportunity to take 
time off from work and go to school. 
Single mothers and others who have 
obligations are more enmeshed in being 
forced to work at oppressive jobs, 
without the options I may have been 
fortunate enough to enjoy... But still I 
am working class, self-supporting 
without any assistance from anyone 
else, a woman, without much education 
beyond high school. 

What I am trying to say is NOT to 
publicly pat myself on the back for 
being able to be "upwardly mobile" 
and extract myself from the corporate 
dungeons of Montgomery Street. . . what 
my aim in this letter is to say is this: that 
if you really want the world to change, 
start with yourself... It is easy to 
criticize the way things are and the 
injustice in the world of work... It's 
another story altogether to DO some- 
thing about it. I used to feel slightly 
"out-of-it" at PW events because 
unlike most of the people there I wasn't 
into heavy, alcoholic level drinking, 
marathon dope smoking, or endless 
sarcasm and criticism of just about 
every political group or movement for 
social change... Also I felt a little 
"out-of-it" for having strong spiritual 
convictions and perhaps even an 
idealistic outlook on the future of this 

Maybe that was good to feel that way, 
because I think to really be an artist, 
you must be a little "out of step" with 
the rest of society and perhaps even 
your friends. It's good to step back form 
the way "most" people think and look 
at things anew. 

In closing, I would just like to say 
good luck with your work. A lot of the 
criticism you profess is justified, but I 
mean really, man you could stand to 
lighten up a little! I like "black humor" 
and can be fairly sarcastic myself at 

times, but I do appreciate a BALANCE. 
At time you may be misguided, but at 
least you are trying to go DO 
SOMETHING instead of just being 
numb as most of the corporations would 
prefer their proles to remain! 

Best wishes, 
C.W. -Washington D.C. 

Ed. : Alcoholics and pot heads, OK, but 
Junk Food?!! Never!! 

Dear P.W., 

I am sitting at work (I work at a 
Fotomat store front) reading P.W. 11. I 
don't meet many people here with this 
"attitude." Basically this job is an 
ironic joke — this company is dying, I sit 
here for hours with very little to do 
which has advantages as I create and 
put together the magazine enclosed 
("Bag of Wire") in the time I make 
here. They are paying me to make it. 
Subversion. Of course my manager has 
not coincided his visits with Bag of Wire 
production hours, but I doubt he would 
be pleased to find "incomprehensible" 
or "offensive" collages spread over the 
back room desk, half finished. I should 
be smiling at the potential customers 
walking by, or dusting the dust free 
shelves. But this subverting of company 
hours definitely increase my sense of 
self- worth. 

A.— W. Somerville, MA 
Bag of Wire is available from P. O. Box 
441230, W. Somerville, MA 02144. 

Processed World: 

Just read issue #11 of PW. I've never 
read so much bitching, sniveling, 
whining, and complaining in my life. If 
you don't like your job: Quit. As an 
example, your anonymous janitor just 
couldn't get it together to finish school. 
Now he's a janitor. Tuff shit, pal. A 
payroll clerk steals from her company. 
Hey, honey, you are a thief. 

I could go on, but you get the idea. 
People with no power are that way for a 
reason. They lack intelligence or 
initiative. Probably both. 

Anon. —Chicago 



Left-wing movements make as a 
positive point for themselves the fact 
that more jobs can be created by 
producing alternative energy sources 
(like solar) rather than nuclear power 
and by civilian as opposed to military 
production. At countless rallies, one is 
stuck in the midst of chants for "Jobs! 
Jobsl Jobs!", while the leafletters make 
their rounds handing out banal tracts 
explaining that alternative production 
will create more happy nine-to-five 
lives. More work seems to be an end in 

("Work" is the lousy experience one 
has in between the alarm going off and 
the clock striking the end of the 
waged- day. This definition thus ex- 
cludes what would be included in a 
fuller discussion, the unwaged work, 
such as housework.) 

Most of the "left" goes along with 
this "Jobs Not War" scheme, forget- 
ting or not caring about the fact that 
jobs are war, given the adversary boss 
vs. worker relationship. Is more work 
what we really want and need? Do we 
really want the same old social relation- 

ships, working for bosses who dic- 
tatorially control the workplace and rip 
off our wealth- creating powers, even if 
we are producing good "alternative" 
products? And in an age of largely 
automated factories and pulsing tech- 
nological advance, is more labor- inten- 
sive drudgery necessary? 

In Thomas More's "Utopia" he 
promised a 6-hour day (and this was in 
1516!). Even Lenin proposed halving 
the workday and doubling wages as the 
only sensible program for U.S. labor in 
1906 (most Leninists would sneeringly 
call such a program " Utopian" today). 

Of course we need alternative and 
healthy technologies like solar, wind, 
and conservation. Yes, military produc- 
tion should end and if wanted or needed 
(by whom?) these facilities should be 
re-tooled (with environmental safe- 
guards) for useful products. We do need 
a way out of our increasingly ruined 
living situation, but the way out is not to 
promote another round of nauseating 
"full employment" politics with refor- 
mist programs of more drudgery with 
the same old capitalism. 

Processed World 

The poor, the welfare recipient, the 

jobless, those who have suffered and 
paid the most and gotten the least, may 
in their heads say, "Yes, we need 
work." But hearts easily cringe at the 
"liberating" prospect of leaving the 
shit line at the unemployment office for 
the shit assembly line at the "produc- 
tive" workplace. The initial happiness 
at scoring a badly needed job can easily 
turn into a permanent melancholy. 

This is the world of working. The 
alienation, misery and boredom of labor 
in "modern" society is well known and 
documented. But the rebellion against 
work and for free time is the other side 
of worker history which neither our 
bosses nor much of the "left" (future 
bosses?) want us to know about. This 
history ranges from the fight for the 
8-hour day to daily resistance against 
speed-ups (like stopping racing as- 
sembly lines by throwing marbles in the 
right place) to that wonderfully simple 
method, absenteeism. Many of us have, 
or know people who have, gotten fired 
on purpose in order to collect un- 

employment, or maybe have stretched 
out a workers compensation case 
beyond a recovery. 

We also know of the struggles to get 
paid for raising children ("welfare") so 
as to not have to work two jobs (or 
starve) and other, similar struggles in 
the "reproductive" unwaged sector. 
We don't have to get defensive and 
deny this just because the "big, bad 
State'' is blaming us for its own 
economic mess. Taking welfare isn't 
"laziness" but a rational and healthy 
expression against the abusive and in- 
sulting world of working for the profit of 
capitalists who may have cushy daily 
routines or who don't work or do any- 

Computers and robots are increas- 
ingly being used, and the news is filled 
with stories of labor-saving techniques. 
Much of the work we do is pure waste 
such as military, advertising, keeping 
track of the ownership of bits of capital 
and all sorts of unnecessary packaging 
and duplication. Of course we should 
not blindly worship any new technology 


that comes along, since use of new 
technology is out of our control and 
under capital's control, which is where 
the problem lies. 

We can produce increased wealth (for 
many of use suffer an extreme absence 
of wealth) with less work. There is no 
reason to work ourselves to death. But 
of course the logic of the system is in 
our way. No businessperson is going to 
share the wealth "made" by robots 
with displaced workers. If we want to 
change this situation we have to think 
about overthrowing it. Workers and the 
community could then take over and 
cooperatively & democratically control 
production ("control of production" is 
only one part of a larger struggle for 
freedom, but that is outside the scope of 
this letter) and share its proceeds (as 
Poland's Solidarity tried to do). 

We can then really be in a position to 
decide what, if and how to produce. A 
situation of vastly increased free time 
can be created, enabling us to live our 
lives more fully and creatively. The im- 
perialist relationship to the Third World 
could end and we could channel wealth 
to them, instead of the other way 
around. Work we do can be redefined 
and rearranged to intermingle with 
learning and play, to make for a whole- 
ness where one's life isn't alienated into 
stifling compartments. 

We should, at a minimum, demand 
not "Jobs" but a shortened workweek 
(much shorter!) with no cut in pay. The 
wealth certainly exists to allow both 
work and wealth to be shared around; to 
attempt otherwise is backwards and ir- 
relevant to the historical juncture we are 
in. We won't get there by feeble peti- 
tion campaigns, getting arrested on 
purpose tactics, or another exhausting 
and futile march on Washington. A 
general strike helped usher in the 
8-hour day, and that's the sort of thing 
we ought to start thinking about now. 
Those who would claim that such an 
idea is "silly" or " Utopian" or "impos- 
sible" are the very people whose mun- 
dane "let's have a picket and go home" 
strategies get us no place. 

Let's talk about the lives we really can 
live. There is nothing crazy or 
far-fetched about any of this; it's all 
here now. Let's take a hint from the 
popular appeal of science fiction and 
futurist writings, that wild imaginings 
of a better world can be real. The 
detonation required for this cannot in- 
clude talk of more work but must ad- 
dress a life-enhancing freedom from 

— Submitted by Midnight Notes and 
the Brooklyn Anti-Nuclear Group 
Ed. note: Readers are encouraged to 
check out both of these very interesting 
publications: Midnight Notes {Box 204, 
Jamaica Plains MA 02130) and 
B.A.N.G. Notes, GPO Box 2666, 

Brooklyn, NY 11202). ^ 

Dear Processed People, 

Here's a few words from Ace's Soap 
Box on the dread subject of "work." As 
the kind of child who always dreaded 
the loathesome task of taking out the 
garbage, and cleaning my room, I've 
been batting my head against the 
mundame "work ethic" all my life. I 
think it's agreed that everyone should 
do SOME boring work — cleaning up 
after oneself, washing dishes, etc. The 
main fuck- up, however, with our 
economic system is "specialization" 
where one is forced to wash dishes 
continuously for 40 hours a week. 

Processed World has done a magni- 
ficent job ridiculing the pointless 
drudgery of most jobs. However the 
next step for all of us seeking 
alternatives to this drudgery is to put up 
or shuttup. It's up to US to create 
creative alternative occupations. To 
show THEM that it can be done. 
Because if we who have "dropped out" 
merely end up living off of welfare or 
tenuous scams, etc., that's not going to 
be very inspiring to the timid souls 
locked into their dead-end jobs. 

I can't stress enough that it's up to 
US — We, the creative lunatics and 
visionaries on the fringe of this 
economic system. No Big Brother-bene- 
factor is going to sympathize with our 
plight and dump a fascinating career on 


Processed World 

our disgruntled laps. If indeed there 
ARE any alternatives, it's up to us to 
create them. To me that's always been 
the exciting thing about the Grand 
Process World Experiment. 

Stay Twisted 1, 
Ace Backwords — Berkeley 

Dear Friends, 

I enjoy reading PW so much that now 
that I have a few extra bucks — I'm 
sending in for my "very own" 
subscription (of course, the attitude is 
politically incorrect — nonetheless.,.). I 
am hoping that as I get more energy and 
optimism I will be able to submit some 
articles for you. 

Until recently, I was a perpetual 
student (officially — unofficially, I expect 
to always be a perpetual student) My 
past employment has come from 
teaching (many years ago) and being a 
grad. asst. After assessing the use- 
fulness of another set of initials after my 
name — I am back in the world trying to 
support myself and 2 kids while 
bringing the fucking system down. PW 
has made this endeavor much more fun 
and bearable. Of course, it's hard for 
me to get a job I'd like or to stay at a job 
as my eyes tell it all! So — here's my $5 
low income rate plus an extra $2 (is this 
too mathematical?). Current occupa- 
tion: Subverter of the ordinary and legal 

S.B. — Springfield, IL 

Dear PW's, 

I found your printing process very 
interesting! The bicolor process makes 
for a striking (though confusing) look. 
What process is used? It smells like 
NCR paper. [Ed.: We use color ink with 
a Multilith 1250 offset press.] 

So far I have avoided much of the 
corporate world you display, outside of 
the job I got laid off from last year. They 
were just bringing a computer system in 
shortly before I left, and since I got 
stuck cleaning used printing machines 
(something for a Kalamazoo College 
former student, huh? I quit because I 
couldn't stand the Grosse Point/Early 
Preppies there), I never got to expose 

myself to that— just to unmarked 
chemicals. I got laid off shortly after I 
voiced objection to a fellow employee 
over dumping outdated plate gum in the 
backyard — within earshot of the VP's 
newly-designated "troubleshooter, ' ' 
who ordered the dumping. 

The article by Peter Wentworth, 
Them That's Not, on the state of 
education, was especially moving. 
Having dealt with Social Services quite 
extensively in the last 6 years, I know 
much more than I ever expected about 
these problems. 

My concern on VDTs (and on elec- 
trical and magnetic devices in general) 
is on the effect they have on what is 
currently being called the Life-field 
(L-field, for short) of both people and 
the planet as a whole. 

I myself once used a magnetic book 
desensitizing device made by 3M for 
public libraries, and found myself, first, 
in extremely high altered states of 
consciousness, and, second, had my 
health rapidly and thoroughly disin- 
tegrate. I was undergoing several 
different psychic/meditation-type train- 
ings at the same time, however, so I'm 
uncertain how much was me and how 
much the device. Any data? 
MSDD — Kalamazoo MI 

Dear PW, 

A couple of weeks ago, the county put 
on this presentation to announce a new 
employee assistance program. Every 
county employee is entitled to 10 hours 
of free consultation at the cascade 
counseling center. A statistic cited 
during the session was this: 25% of the 
American workforce is so depressed 
that it requires medication, hospitali- 
zation, or both. 

I had a few questions: 

1) By whose standards do these people 
require treatment? 

2) If 25% are chronically depressed, 
and another 65% are mildly disil- 
lusioned, what makes the remaining 
10% so fucking sure they ain't the 

3) If three drinks a day is alcoholism, 
what's a fifth and two six packs? 


4) What's there to sober up for? 

"Oh, Ligi," Mr. Moonbeam said, 
"why can't you just hghten up?" 

"Beats me," I said. It's my answer 
for everything. 

Take care, 
Ligi — Portland 

operator — check the high incidence of 
dysmenorrhea culminating in hysterec- 
tomy. Symptoms occur within three to 
six months of steady use. The female 
menstrual cycle runs amok — irregu- 
larity— heavy flow — irritability. Stress? 
Radiation? No one knows or cares. 

Attorneys are using these word 
processors, so won't take the case 


jaK/^6»iMe THos^6e6/fT^tte^Dic 

pAl*b ... BGATIVJ-Jif SCAO^... 








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Processed World 

seriously because they believe they are 
putting out a larger volume of work, and 
are almost entirely a male population 


DEER processed wrld. — 

am interested, this be-damned typish 

v^riter speaks the language of arthritis 
in this, the core of salt lake's winter, 
forgive me addressing such a personal 
request in your direction when we 
hardly even know one another.... you 
must come to grips with a vague under- 
standing of the bleak situation here — i 
do not mean to complain, as i am aware 

«^HrTe-COU.A^^ Fik}AI^UM> f Ei$6e> Of to- 

m Its TH^ BiicfiAies^f^a^ tj«o 

O /C^C\^ OMPeRfAtc> I 

<jJv^t7V> V. Fo«. GWkNTeO AS TH 

CoaU) 1V©1 Get 

^ To AVOID -[% 




of my responsibility for living where i i hope that my "red" hair does not 

do, or rather remaining where i was create angst in your souls — 

placed.... the "TRUTH" is that i need 
to be exposed to your publication. 

if need be, then forward the initial 
cost of my introduction, otherwise, 
please see to it that i receive an example 
of your genius.... 

k.s. — Salt Lake City 

Dear PW, 

This is to thank you for publishing my 
poem "Breathing" in the Winter 84/85 

THe h\u Me^seN)cBa5 I Ki^MofJ5 Oust ^o tm ^n)o Vc4\ 

Caul a ^A^s:> MeeT(W6 , >^A/0 

^^N\ff{l\!^ ANO 1)0UlWt^. yM/V£ CCi/NTM ct+^vscpe^ WJ 





OF a)o(Lse,<U)AU-n£>io$ 



OF I'\v^ 

Jag[y p«r«»\V <\v\^ 


Processed World 

issue. PW has entertained me for 
several years now, so it felt good to 
contribute something back. 

Wrote the poem on the way to a temp 
assignment at One Embarcadero 
Center. I worked for one cool guy and 
one shithead. I often wonder what 
freedom is, exactly. I am probably more 
pro-capitalism than most of your 
readership (and contributors, too) but 
that's because I hope to break out of 
8:30-5 by writing a best selling novel or 
a screenplay. 

Nevertheless, a graffito near my temp 
agency made me think: FREEDOM 
The anarchist (it was accompanied by 
the circled A) might have a point. 

Conservatively yours, 
Christopher Newton — S.F. 

COMMUNIQUE: re Stock Market 
stench bombing: from Creative Inter- 
ference Anonymous — C.I. A. 

In the wee hours of Friday morning, 
January 19, 1985, we dropped a stench 
bomb on the Pacific Stock Exchange. 
The chemical used was ethyl mercaptan 
(ethane thiol); the amount was 500 

The stock exchange is an unholy 
temple to the gods of avarice and 
amorality. It is the primary device by 
which commerce is conducted with 
scarcely a thought as to the human and 
ecological "side effects." It is a place 
where economic abstraction reigns 
supreme, and life and decency are 
sacrificed before the altar of greed. 

The so-called "side effects" of 
limited liability capitalism are well 
known; the acts of indecency which are 
committed for profit are everyday 
knowledge. We mention a few general 

• Corporate involvement in promoting 
the arms race, and in manufacturing 
nuclear and other weapons of mass 

• Trade with South Africa and other 
brutal oligarchies and dictatorships. 

• Abusive and exploitative labor prac- 
tices, both within the U.S. and more 
particulary in third-world subsidiaries. 

• "Dumping" unsafe products, such 
as domestically banned pharmaceuti- 
cals, into foreign markets where few 
safeguards exist. 

• Consuming limited natural resour- 
ces without thought of the needs of 
future generations. 

• Promoting lifestyles based on 
materialism, social insecurity, and 
status-seeking; lifestyles which are 
lacking in human and spiritual depth. 

The rich, mostly white, mostly male 
people who own and manage the 
corporate state are usually nice, 
reasonable family men. Does their 
power and status limit their vision, 
making them unable to understand life 
outside of their own social sphere? 

Can they begin to think of other 
families? Families who have lost 
members to the death squads and the 
torture chambers... families who have 
suffered disease and death due to 
pollution or occupational hazards... 
families who cannot afford to feed their 
children... families suffering the terrors 
of war waged for economic gain... and 
finally, the countless millions who will 
suffer and die horrible deaths if the 
products of the nuclear arms race are 
ever put to use. 

We use stinkbombs as a way of 
making a direct, visceral protest. We 
call your attention to the stench of 
burned andVotting bodies on the battle- 
field; the odor of toxic waste and 
pollution; they reek of the decay of a 
declining society which glorifies greed 
and destruction. Above all, we call your 
attention to the most foul smell of all: 
the stink of the rotting consciences of 
the power elite. 

Our demands are quite reasonable 
and simple: We demand that those in 
power begin to use their consciences; 
begin to think of the people who are 
directly and indirectly harmed by their 
policies; and begin to correct the 
imbalances they have caused. It is not 
all that hard to do. The Polaroid 
Corporation took a great step forward 
by refusing to allow its photographic 
equipment and materials to be exported 



n -- h^'f'f'TZke the ^^^ 

collating, then we wi 

to South Africa, where these materials 
were being used by the authorities to 
facihtate the internal passport system 
and other means of repression. While 
we commend Polaroid, we condemn 
those who have not acted; there is much 
more that needs to be done. 

In addition to measure motivated by 
conscience, we call for changes in the 
law, so as to make corporate and 
governmental officials personally legal- 
ly liable for the harmful consequences 
of their policy decisions. 

We have heard plenty of idle rhetoric 
about responsible corporate citizenship. 
We find this hypocrisy as sickening as 
the smell of ethyl mercaptan. Stink- 
bombings and other acts of creative 
interference can be expected as long as 
government and corporate leaders fail 
to authenticate their claimed concerns 
by implementing policies that preserve 
the interaction of diverse life which is 

Creative Interference Anonymous 

CAUTION: many of the substances 
which can be used for making stink- 
bombs are potentially harmful if used 
incorrectly, e.g., ethyl mercaptan: 
Mercaptan is extremely flammable; if 
absorbed through the skin, it can cause 
genetic damage. It is extremely volatile 
and will diffuse rapidly into the air. In 
use as a stinkbomb, it is vital to avoid 
getting it on skin or clothing or exposing 
the concentrated fumes to open flame. 
It comes packed in a specially sealed 
container. Do not open the container 
until ready for use, or you will have no 

way to re- seal it and you will stink out 
your own house. 

Other substances used for stink- 
bombing include buteric acid (essence 
of garbage), valeric acid (essence of 
locker room), skatole (essence of 
excrement), putrescine (rotting meat), 
and cadaverine (corpses; good for 
die-ins). Some of these can cause skin 
irritation, and putrescine is capable of 
causing a reaction similar to food 
poisoning if you get any in your mouth. 

The objective of stinkbombing is to 
disrupt in a playful yet effective 
manner, NOT to send people to the 
hospital. If you don't think you can 
handle chemicals safely, then stick to 
simple and safe household items such 
as rotten eggs, dog or cat shit, vomit, 
rotting fruit or meat, etc. 

If you do intend to work with 
chemicals, buy them over the counter; 
NEVER have things sent to your 
address; pay cash and sign a phony 
name. Students can often get all kinds 
of goodies at university labs. You 
should stockpile a whole bunch of stuff 
before actually using any of it; as soon 
as you hit one target, the cops will start 
looking for the source of supply and you 
could get nailed in a sting. 

Before doing an action, practice your 
chemical handling methods using 
something safe like vinegar. Finally, 
always use rubber gloves, wipe all 
fingerprints with rubbing alcohol, and 
plan your actions well in advance. 

Dear PW, 

I like "Any Port in a Storm?" (PW 
#12). Much of it made sense yet I do not 


Processed World 

regret voting against Reagan/Bush by 
voting for Mondale-Ferraro. Despite the 
vote totals and seeming inefficacy of 
such a decision, it was necessary to take 
such a (silent) stand. I'm saddened by 
what the outcome signifies for this 
society in racial and social-justice 
terms. But I'd like to think my vote was 
on behalf of those too alienated to vote 
and those in Central America who face 
more consequences of such electoral 
decisions than I do. 

The " movement "(s) has a lot to do in 
the area of education and persuasion 
but there's little you can do with people 
who have been so drugged by movies 
and TV that they let themselves believe 
Reagan's smooth dreams and words 
and who are more concerned about the 
Olympics than the unemployed. 

Hang in there, 
CF- Charlottesville, VA 

Dear PW, 

In their zeal to discredit American 
politics, the authors of "Any Port in a 
Storm" (PW #12) ignored differences 
between Mondale and Reagan which, as 
a radical fairy, I find too important to 
disregard. True, Mondale might have 
got us into war in Central America were 

he elected— just as Reagan is doing. He 
would have raised taxes— just as 
Reagan will raise taxes. He might have 
continued the arms build-up— just as 
Reagan is committed to doing. And yet, 
an overwhelming majority of voters 
preferred Reagan to Mondale. Why? 
Obviously there were perceptible 
differences between the candidates. 

A great many Americans want to feel 
good about the country. They identify 
with their country. Loss of face in 
Vietnam and Iran still smarts. The 
plural realities presented by radical 
women, gays and Blacks disturbed the 
peace of those Americans who were 
none of these. The threat of communist 
missiles catches the fearful attention of 
citizens who are, as individuals, as 
vulnerable as their country. 

Reagan's solution to this spiritual 
dilemma is to summon a social vision 
which has justifiably lost in popularity 
over the past 30 years. The traditional 
American, "Christian," and "family" 
values which Reagan espouses are just 
doublespeak for fascism. To radical 
gays, to women, to Blacks, to people 
who do not speak English, to all who 
must resist conformity to madness, the 
political door has been shut according to 



the expressed policy of Reagan and his 

The Mondale machine, at least, 
sought the support of diverse cultural 
groups, if only out of self-interest as a 
method of getting votes. That 90% of 
Black voters voted for Mondale is a 
measure of the importance of the 
difference between the two candidates. 
That 90% of gay voters chose Mondale 
also tells a lot. 

I voted for Mondale because I believe 
that our few relative freedoms are 
endangered under a lame-duck Reagan. 
I know that there are many ways to 
effectively restrict the free speech, 
education, free assembly, free 
movement, without outlawing them. A 
war-time economy and war-time 
political situation, under the leadership 
of a charismatic tyrant, have many time 
been used to create a stifling environ- 
ment of suspicion in the home country. 

As long as we can exercise our 
relative freedom, we have the room to 
make changes. But fascism throws a 
yellow pall on "unpatriotic" behavior. 
The wave of American patriotism, on 
which Reagan is riding, threatens us 
gay people. It threatens the heteros 
even more, for we queers are used to 
eking out our lives in the nooks and 
crannies of hetero social life. But hetero 
men and women, with children to 
provide for, may find it impossible to 
change jobs or cities without escaping 
scrutiny and suspicion. They may find 
themselves locked in social situations 
which leave no room for resistance. This 
is the social scenario of fascism which 
has unfolded many places the world 
over, while many assumed, "It can't 
happen here." 

I hold by two main criticisms of 
voting: 1) that our thoughts and 
feelings on issues are inadequately 
expressed by a choice of YES or NO, 
and 2) that the choice of the minority is 
totally discounted. 

But these are intellectualisms with 
little practical value. Practically, we're 
foolish to give up our right to vote if 
there's a chance that American white 

hetero male Protestant fascism can be 
averted through the ballot box. 

Thanks for giving me the opportunity 
to work these things out. 


Dear PW, 

Well I did and didn't vote, both at the 
same time. I was already registered, but 
figured none of the assholes on the 
ticket deserved my vote (if in fact it does 
have any value). I wasn't going to show, 
but wanted to be sure that they knew I 
thought they sucked — and not think that 
I was just lazy or apathetic... so I showed 
up, signed the big book, went into the 
booth, closed the curtain, and did 
nothing. I thought about pulling the 
lever next to where it said "Radical 
Commie College Schixa Party" so that 
they could (Fat chance) get some bucks 
from the feds for next year's (ahem) 
camPAIN, but decided not to, they'd 
never get the money anyway. 

I figure that if say 10,000 people show 
up in my district but there are only 200 
votes (about the number that probably 
really support any of the sugar-coated 
candy-dates) then the media, etc. will 
get some kind of message, but I haven't 
really figured out what that message is. 

It's just a twist on non- voting, 
sometimes I think it gives the system 
too much credit, as if voting could really 
change something; but it is one small 
way to say that the system is not 
reaching, working, effective. 

Am looking forward to others 
opinions and tactics. 

K7- New York 

"n't 5« n^ftcMi-'f "^1^^ 

Assignment ffHJ-3549 

Everything inside the Petro building 
buzzes beige — a faint reminder of a 
vicious alarm clock. Loud enough to stay 
awake without ever quite waking up. All 
day, all week. 

An impatient tap broke the hypno- 
static. Doug Toole was knocking his 
plastic coffee cup against his secretary's 
desk. Rosa adjusted her ruffled blouse 
and smiled at the grey-faced engineer in 
his nylon shirt. "Is that your way of 
telling me you want some coffee?" she 
asked. Toole tensed one side of his thin 
lips by way of acknowledging his wit. 
Rosa dropped what she was doing and 
headed for the corporate kitchenette. 

I turned on my i 


j>so the people 

in Central Word Processing would know 
#12 was there right on time. They keep 

—by Kelly Girl 

records. WANG warmed up and started 
breathing green in my face. Eight-thir- 
ty-six, it said. Six out of sixty is a tenth 
of ten dollars is a dollar. 

I took an Oo-La-Croissant bag out of 
my briefcase. Coffee and croissant — 
caffeine and carbos to keep the mind 
humming numb. Small things to look 
forward to. 

"Giorgio" scent swiftly overpowered 
the French Roast. 

"You know, you shouldn't eat in the 
office. It really looks bad," said Rosa, 
without greeting. 

I picked off a wide flake, butter 
oozing underneath, and placed it on my 

Rosa dropped a stack of mail on my 
desk, with two publications on top — 
TempoRite, the magazine of Kelly 
Girls, Inc. and the Wall Street Journal. 
"You can read the magazine if you 
don't have anything else to do," Rosa 
instructed. "But don't touch the Wall 

Kelly Call Girl 


Street Journal. Kenny — Mr. Denham — 
doesn't like anyone reading his news- 
paper but him." 

She fastened back on the croissant, 
and told me the calorie content of 
everything she had eaten yesterday 
while I chewed slowly. 

"...I've been so good. You see, 
Kenny — Mr. Denham — is having a 
brunch this Sunday to introduce his old 
friends to his new fiance, and she's such 
a tiny little thing that I've got to lose at 
least four pounds by then." She tugged 
her skirt around her designer ass and 
licked her plastic lips. 

Rosa turned to look at her reflection 
in Denham's inner-office window, 
smiling as if he were inside. "Kenny 
asked me if I'd come early to fix things 
up — like he always does when he gives 
parties. He's so cute. People think 
we're having an affair, but I tell them 
he's just like my little brother." She 
snapped a lacquered grey hair. "Has 
anyone told you we're having an 

I wiped the last crumbs on the Wall 
Street Journal. " No . " 


VitH ^STrf 1>1«S^ 


tinenf^'^.-luxu^^^bide - J Rep 


Its lo^^Vcl 


^' ort-^"" 


oris- ^^ion - Q^er ^\^^^^s ^^ p^^ico^ 



logy ^, So^ 


«•'='■. IS" jsrs-ii 










"I told you not to read Mr. Denham's 
paper," Rosa said, over my shoulder. 

"Just straightening it. / can't under- 
stand this stuff" 

"Well, okay. It's just that the temp 
last week had it all messed up and 
folded wrong and we had to send a 
messenger out for another." 

"You had a temp last week, too? 
-What's wrong with the secretary who 

usually works here?" 

"Oh, we don't have a regular 
secretary here." Rosa looked around to 
see if anyone was watching us not work. 
"We have a couple of positions here 
that are just temporary. It's really a lot 
easier on the rest of us if we have 
someone come in and do the sorting and 
filing and typing charts and stuff. 
People in those positions never last 
long, so the company doesn't have to 
worry about training them, paying for 
benefits — investing in them. That way 
the people who really work for the 
company get treated a little better. 
We're kind of like a family." 








...Isn't your secretary important to 
you? Every sixty days, 16,000 top 
executives give their secretaries a new 
learning system called BIZ. Your 
secretary 's productivity linked to yours. 
Secretaries are entitled to and need 
affirmation of the key role they 
play — along with ongoing encourage- 
ment and systematic assistance in 
learning how to become more valuable 
on the job. Here's a sample of the 
content of a BIZ portfolio: Business 
Finance Made Easy, 22 Ways to Ship 
Almost Anything Anywhere; How to 
Help Your Boss Lead an Effective 
Meeting: How to Work Smarter and Get 
More Done; How to Get the Most Out of 
Temporary Help,., 

I sorted some of the morning's mail — 
piles of forms which had to be routed to 
each engineer for initials before they 
were filed in several file drawers. I 
worked for three contract engineers — 
men who had done it right, gone to 
undergraduate engineering school and 
then headed for law school. They get 
memos for free company seminars on 
mortgage financing. Their secretaries 
get memos telling them to pitch in five 
bucks for a going away party for one of 


Processed World 

the company guys. 

I stuck the stack of the papers way in 
the back of the fiHng cabinet, and I was 
done. Somebody's Boss was watching, 
so I read my TempoRite magazine. 








...Opening mail is a Kelly Girl's first 
job every day — except for getting 
coffee, of course. There 's a way to open 
the mail. Below are the things to do with 
the mail. But they're written in the 
wrong order. Can you put them in the 
right order? 

• Stamp the date. 

• Give the mail to your immediate 

^ Put the mail in a folder. 

• Slit the envelope. 

"Good morning, Petro Construction, 
Contracts Division, Mr. Denham's 
office, this is Kelly." 

"Yeah, this is Ken." He sounded 
sleepy. "Listen, if anyone calls, tell 
them I'm in a meeting, unless it's 
Barnum, then tell him my car had 
trouble on the way to the office and I'm 
on my way. If Steele calls, he can call 
me here — I'm at Sharon's. If it's Caley, 
tell him I'm on long distance and I'll call 
him right back, and then give me a 
quick buzz here. Tell Morton the 
meeting's at eleven-thirty and I'm at 
the other office until then." 

"Morton's at the other office." 

"Then tell him I'm here, I mean 
there, at the other office. Not the other 
office he's at. Got it?" 

"Yes, Ken." "r^^^'^ 

"Good girl." >^^ 

Doug Toole walked past me, studying 
the beige carpet. I called after him. 

"What is it?" he mumbled, without 
lifting his head. 

"You've got some mail here." He 
kept walking to his office. 

My intercom buzzed. "Bring me my 

Toole's office had the kind of smell 
that accumulates when a person sits in a 
cubicle with the door closed for a long 
time. His office was bare— the walls 
didn't even have the watercolors of oil 
rigs which the other engineers sported. 
Just papers and charts on a meticulous 
desk, with a neat pile of coffee whitener 
saved up in one corner. Toole's tight, 
grey-tinged collar was barely distin- 
guishable from his neck. He didn't look 
up when I came in— he only looked at 
me when he thought I couldn't see him. 
I dropped the papers on his desk. He 
didn't say thank you. 

"Do you need anything else done 
right now, Doug?" He shook his head 

Two minutes later, Toole came out of 
his office and slid a stack of papers in 
my in-box, with a yellow Post'em 
squarely attached: "Six copies im- 
mediately, collated, stapled, original on 






...The Fine Art of Giving and 
Receiving Compliments. Want to have a 
really good day? Give a sincere 
compliment. Receive a compliment 

Problem 1: It's embarrassing. The 
blushers of the world give and receive 
the very best compliments. If you turn 
slightly red when people tell you, ' 'You 
do excellent work, " you let your 
complimenters know they've said 
something meaningful. 

If the spoken words are Just too 
difficult for you, begin with notes, A 
little note clipped on top of your typing 
can say, "Thanks for the good 
directions. They made this go much 
faster. " 

Gracious receivers: Both the compW 
menter and the complimentee will feel 
good when the compliment has been 
acknowledged with a simple thank you 
and some recognition of the effort: 
"Thank you. You made my day by 
noticing." .J 

Kelly Call Girl 



Phil Morton bounded in with his gym 
bag, his blonde hair still wet. He gave 
me a big wink. 

"Hey, Kelly, did you catch the game 
last night?" 

"What game?" 

He thought that was a good joke, and 
gave me another wink on his way down 
the hall. He yelled in a Toole. "So 
when's the kick-off for the GLF bid?" I 
couldn't hear Toole. "Oh yeah? Well, 
we better go for it soon or we'll never 
make the big game." Morton beat his 
fist into his hand. "Damn, we've got to 
beat those fuckers at Shortek. We've 
got to kill them." 

Morton poured himself a 4-ounce dis- 
posable cupful of coffee. He blew on it 
fiercely, took a sip, and tossed it all in 
the trash. "Kelly!" he yelled. 

"What is it, Phil?" I smiled. 

"This coffee tastes like a warm 

"I know, Phil, I didn't make it." 

He came over to my desk, put one of 
his thick hands on my in-box, glanced at 
my tits, and gave me a smile. "Well, 
that's okay, then, Kelly. We're glad to 
have you pitchin' for us even if you can 't 
make coffee. Now why don't you sprint 
down to the corner and get me a cup of 
the rea/ stuff." 

I don't like to get coffee. "I wouldn't 
mind going out, but I have some 
Xeroxing to do for Toole," I told him, 

"Get me Toole on the intercom," he 
ordered. I buzzed Toole, though he'd 
probably been listening. 

"Look, Toole," Morton hollered into 
the box. "Your little project for Kelly's 
going to have to wait a little while, 
'cause I got a priority game-plan going 
here, and we've got to move/' Morton 
hung up. He handed me a dollar. 

"And why don't you get yourself a 
cup too, hon, on me." 









Q: I'm a non-smoker, and sometimes 
on assignments I find myself in the 
uncomfortable situation of being sur- 
rounded by smokers. As a temporary 
employee, I don 'tfeel that 1 have a right 
to say anything. How should I handle 
this? , 

A: The fact that you are a temporary 
employee does not mean that you are 
entitled to comfortable working condi- 
tions. If you find that your environment 
hinders your performance, contact your 
local Kelly office. 


Processed World 

©1984 Sarah Pattillo 

Denham came in about ten minutes 
before his meeting. He hung his wet 
James Bond raincoat over my Tempo- 
rary Jacket, nodded at me, picked up 
his messages, and handed me a twenty- 
page stack of papers. "These have to be 
out before lunch," he said. It was 11:25. 

"Okay, Ken." 

"Unless — hey. You know those 
reports I have to give to my supervisor 
every week over in the other building?" 

"I don't think I've ever seen them." 

He handed me some memo sheets. 
"All we're doing at this meeting is 
updating this. So if you could come and 
take notes on what everyone says and 
revise the report, that would save me a 
lot of work. Okay?" 

I looked over the report, which 
described several technical projects in 
sentences which took about two years of 
engineering school to construct. "I 
don't know if I'd trust myself to do that 
for you, Ken. I don't know anything 
about your projects." 

Denham looked away with a little-boy 
huff. "No, I guess you wouldn't under- 
stand something that complicated, 
would you?" 

"Not immediately. Ken." 

"Then I have to have that other stuff 
before lunch." 







. . . Good Kelly girls have to be able to 
adapt to changing situations. One 
on-the-job supervisor might want a tem- 
porary employee who is punctual, 
enthusiastic and eager to accept 
responsiblity. Another says that being 
well-groomed, friendly and flexible is 
important. A third could describe the 
ideal Kelly Girl as one who is adaptable 
and dependable. String all those 
adjectives together and youve found 
certain qualities that allow Kelly girls to 
be truly helpful— and memorable. 


Denham came out. "I'm going to 
lunch. Are those papers finished yet?" 

"They're not finished yet. Ken. And I 
type ninety words a minute." 

"But there were only a few changes, 
Kelly." He checked his gold watch. 

"There's twenty pages here." 

Ken gave me a boy-are-you-dumb 
stare. "It's already on disk. Every- 
thing here's on disk. You should know 
that by now." 

No one had told me all week that the 
documents I'd word processed were 
already stored somewhere in the 
cryptically-coded box of diskettes. 
"Sorry, Ken." 

"Well, do it soon. I'm having lunch at 
the Embarcadero, then I've got to go 
shopping for Sharon's birthday pre- 
sent." He pulled out his wallet and 
riffled through some bills. "A hundred 
should be good enough," he reasoned 
to himself. He snapped his fingers. 
"Hey, Kelly. Do you want to go to 
Macy's at lunch and pick out something 
cute in a size four?" He pulled out a 
hundred-dollar bill. 

I had a vow never to go to Macy's and 
resisted taking the bill to a friend's 
house for the afternoon. "I wouldn't 
know what she'd like. Ken." 

"Well, you dress okay. Just get 
something a little more feminine." I 
folded my arms. 

"I'd probably get something you 
hated, Ken." 

'I'll be back at four-thirty." He was 


Processed World 

I took a late lunch, and stopped in at 
the Ladies' Room on the way out. The 
Ladies' Room is beauty-parlor blue, 
with floral kitchen chairs where women 
come to sit and smoke, or escape for a 
while (women spend so much time in 
the bathroom.) Three women were 
putting on make-up when I came in. I 
half-smiled in the mirror at two of them. 
They went on silently applying mascara 
and styling mousse. 

I went into the stall, carefully placed 
the tissue cover on the seat to waste 
time, and sat down for awhile. Soon, I 
smelled "Giorgio," and noticed Rosa's 
red-bowed pumps pointed the opposite 
way in the next-door stall. The toilet 
flushed several times, and her feet did a 
fast jump backwards to avoid a choco- 
late splat. 

Washing my hands, I noticed a 
bulging Oo-La-Croissant bag on the 
counter. Rosa came out of her stall and 
quickly put the bag on the other side of 
her purse. "They're for my whole 
department," she said. I smiled. 

"Sometimes I get so bored at work I 
think I could eat a whole bagful like 
that," I said. Rosa opened her 
multi-pasteled eyes wide. 

"Oh, I never could. I don't even think 
I could make it through one of those big 

"Or raspberry turnovers," I added. 

"Umm, those are good. Have you 
tried the chocolate chip croissants? And 
the almond ones?" She laughed, leaned 
toward me secretively, and touched me 
with one of her cherry-ice nails. 
"Sometimes I'm not that good. In 
fact..." she bent down to see if there 
was anyone left in the stalls. "Once, I 
even ate a whole bagful like that by 









SLIMMING FOODS: It's lunch time. 
You re trying to shed a few pounds and 
should lunch lightly. But the gang's 
headed to the company cafeteria. Go 
ahead. Join them. The cafeteria isn't 
necessarily a dieter's danger zone. You 
can easily choose a delicious, nutritious 
and calorie-trimmed lunch. 

not required for beneficial body move- 
ment. Thinking is the important factor. 
Plan how to move more often. Volunteer 
to go to the supply room when supplies 
are needed. Walking at a medium pace 
bums 210 calories; office work bums 
about 150. 

SLIMMING LOOKS: After all that exer- 
cise and dieting, if the bathroom scale 
still reads higher than you 'd like, don 't 
fret. Let your clothes help you achieve a 
trim look. 

Kelly Call Girl 


"Yeah, I pig out when I'm working 
sometimes," I reassured her. "I get 
bored, I get tired of people telling me 
what to do, tired of being told I have to 
look thin and beautiful and manlike and 
professional all at once." I dried my 
hands in my hair. 

"And tired of being lonely," she 
added, brushing her hair. 

"Gotta fill up those holes inside 
somehow. You get depressed so you 
eat, you get fat so you get depressed. 
Lots of women feel so unattractive and 
unworthy that they just stuff themselves 
and puke." 

Rosa stopped brushing her hair. 
"Really? I can't imagine..." 

"Sure. Scarf 'n Barf. Number One 
Women's Corporate Sport." 

"I wonder what they do about it," 
Rosa ventured. 

"Some get therapy. Some tell those 
bastards out there to go fuck them- 

Rosa looked at her reflection in the 
mirror and smiled a little smile. At 







What secretaries say: The major 
findings were fairly consistent among 
all the secretaries. 

• Secretaries are very satisfied with 
their profession and with the current 

• Secretaries love word processing. 

• Secretaries believe that word pro- 
cessing opens up new career op- 

• Secretaries do not believe office 
automation threatens their jobs. 

"Good book?" 

It was Toole. I closed the file drawer 

and held the book more assertively in 
my hands. "I'm done with everything 
else. I can't just sit here." 

"What are we reading?" Toole 
leaned over my shoulder and I could 
smell Vapo- Mints. He read the title. 
About Men, by Phyllis Chesler, and 
twitched a little. No doubt the psycho- 
feminist title struck him as another 
Happy Hooker. Toole gave a superior 
snort. "That women's lib stuff doesn't 
affect me." He extended his limp white 
hand and took possession of my book. 
"Why should I be concerned about 
other girls if the girl I spend time with is 
more like — who's that one who does the 
anti-ERA stuff?" 

"Phyllis Schlafley. The lawyer." 
"Yeah, she agrees with her. She's 
content, and so am I, so why should I 
worry about anyone else? I'm just 
looking out for our interests." 

I didn't want to get into it. I didn't 
want to launch into yet another line of 
Palatable Good-For-Men-Too Femin- 
ism. I shrugged. 

"Yeah, well I hope the women in this 
office are looking out for their 

Toole brushed some imaginary lint off 
his sleeves. "Where are those xeroxes I 
asked for this morning?" 

I looked at him straight-on. "Give me 
my book." 

Denham leaned his impeccable 
sandy-brown head out his door. "Kelly, 
is there a thesaurus around here?" 

"I doubt it. Ken. But I know a few 

"Well, come in here a second." I 
went inside Denham's walnut-paneled 
office, which had glass bookshelves, 
leather desk accessories, and a great 
view of the financial district. I sunk in a 
low, crushed-velvet chair and looked up 
at his massive desk. 

"Don't ask me what I'm doing," said 
Denham, scribbling away at something. 
"But what's a good adjective for when 
something is written in a way that has to 


Processed World 

do with self-help stuff." He looked 
bashful. "See, I'm writing this card to 
my brother about a book I read, and it 
was pretty good, it's just that it wasn't 
written — well, conservatively. Not like 
the usual kind of thing I'd read." 

"How about psycho-babble. Ken." 

He laughed. "Hey, I like that. But not 
a word I'd use. You know, something 
more conservative." 

"How about sensitive, conscious- 
ness-raising, holistic, New-Age, 
human potential..." I rattled off a lot of 
words he wasn't familiar with. 

He shook his head. "No, those are 
words that describe how you feel." He 
thought for awhile. "I've got it! 

I stood up. "Listen Ken, would you 
sign my Temporary Time Card?" He 
clicked his gold Cross pen and signed it 
without checking the hours." 

"Back Monday?" 

"No." He looked a little hurt. 

"Why not?" 

"I just do this for money. Ken, when I 
have to. I want to do something more 

He nodded. "Yeah, this gets pretty 
boring. What else do you do?" First 

sign of interest. 

"I'm a writer. Freelance journalist. 
Almost." Denham looked me up and 

"Huh. You know, the thing that gets 
me about women journalists is they 
always dress sexy for interviews, you 
know. They use their sexiness to have 
some power when they can't be tough." 

I gave him a tough look. "That's not 
my style. Ken." 

He assumed a mentor air. "No, you're 
too cute. You know, the way I treat a 
woman depends exactly on the way she 
dresses. Dress like a woman, and I treat 
you like a woman. Wear a suit, and I'll 
take you seriously. You know, maybe 
you should wear something a little more 

I shrugged my shoulders, breathing 
in for a retort. His phone rang, and he 
checked the clock. Four-thirty-six. 
"Why don't you go on home, Kelly." 

I didn't say thank-you. 

...The supervisor at the company 
where I was working told my temp 
agency supervisor that when his 
company needed more temporaries, she 
wanted them to be "just like Kelly — 
maybe even her clone, " 

In an extraordinary world, her day 
was the most ordinary possible. She 
walked to work, passing shops, offices, 
and galleries, each evenly-lit inside and 
restrained and symmetrical on the 
outside in the modern style. Her own 
work building said "Gresham" on the 
outside and the inside was made of 
white tile and wallboard and partitions. 
This was early morning in the city, 
when the light was golden and hesitant; 
it did not yet stretch curvaceously 
around tall buildings the way it did in 
late afternoon, the time of long shadows 
and, for office workers, stupor. 

The thing is, she thought to herself 
while hanging up her coat and moving 
to the office coffee pot, you've got to get 
your mind more active — take a class or 
something, if you can bear sitting in a 
classroom for three hours after sitting 
for eight at a typewriter. She thought 
this often. Behind a fog, other secre- 
taries were making their sporadic dull 
morning-talk. But what kind of class? 
She had never gotten past this question. 

Limousines gliding down the avenue 
outside her window might have been 
strange black water birds, with an 
occasional white swan... but inside, the 
proud and the powerful sit, she thought, 
catching a glimpse of a hand holding a 

telephone receiver inside one of the 
murky windows. She smiled slightly, 
her attention drawn back to the swan 
image: there was nothing very angry or 
willful about her. She loved what could 
take her away from the world. 

Rolling paper in the platen, she 
began to think idly: weight, weight, 
you've got to lose some weight... run- 
ning it like a chant through her head. 
After typing lists of stock numbers and 
prices for an hour or so, she vaguely 
began to think about the thing, hoping it 
would not come over her but it did. This 
kind of antsyness in her stomach was 
not hunger, but it made her rise like a 
robot and walk to the vending machines 
down the hall. This urge is hopeless to 
fight, she thought, once it comes on. It 
blew in like a squall from the lonely 
spaces in her brain and while eating, in 
the hall or in the bathroom away from 
co-workers, she stared straight ahead, 
vacantly and it was pleasant. 

Well, that's it, she thought, swallow- 
ing the last of the three candy bars and 
crumpling the wrappers. Now the argu- 
ment-with-self would ensue: No, no, no, 
I told you not to eat that crap! But it's so 
awful here, no one even talks to me, and 
I'm wasting my life! How can you deny 
yourself this trifling pleasure when this 


Processed World 

room and your whole daytime existence 
is so sour? Well, isn't your nighttime 
existence a zero deal too? And do you 
know why? Because you're such a 
blimp! Oh c'mon! Is that a real reason 
or just an excuse? 

During the argument, her face was 
smooth; she bit her lip the tiniest bit, 
but that could have indicated concen- 
tration over the paperwork which she 
was now taking to task. 

Lunchtime was better; it was with 
Lucinda, a co-worker who had lots of 
children at home who wore her out. Oh, 
they throw themselves on me from the 
moment I get home till the time I fall 
asleep, she was saying as they sat on 
the park bench not 20 feet from the 
noisy avenue. Lucinda laughed a lot and 
her exhaustion was not evident. Her 
long black hair got into her sandwich 
and they both laughed. Then they had 
to go back inside for the next half of the 
day, which was always the worst. 

She had forgotten about the other 
thing that happened sometimes when 
she felt in lighter spirits, like after a 
nice lunch. It drove her crazy. Surely it 

won't keep me from work, she thought, 
but then it started. A huge feeling of 
horniness leapt upon her. It made her 
feel her nipples against her blouse and 
the creases behind her knees. It made 
her want to laugh insanely at the 
office — the absurd, stultifying cubicles, 
alphabetical files, and all the silly 
people with pointy shoes and impec- 
cable grooming. 

If only to dash out the door and into 
the little park, she thought. If only to 
strike up a conversation with someone 
there, something simple about feeding 
pigeons! Someone out there who 
doesn't have a boring existence like 
this, someone who could tell me what 
daytime is really like! 

Asking if anyone would like anything 
from the deli, she ran out quickly and 
brought back a soda pop for the recep- 
tionist and cookies for herself. She 
wolfed them down while shuffling 
through the papers. Afterwards, 
through the greasy, stuffed feeling, she 
felt the thick beating of her heart. The 
thing had returned, and she began to 
rock very slightly and slowly back and 

Sweet Relief 



b^ AcjL^acbjor^5 g)i2.-'i<f 

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forth in her chair, one foot tucked under 
her, typing all the while. Sweat rose to 
her forehead; the rest of the office was a 
clicking machine far away behind a blue 
fog. She got up and went into the 
bathroom. But I don't have to go to the 
bathroom, she thought, sitting there. 

Oh damn you! Why do you have to 
get so out of line! Why? What if 
somebody saw that? Then you're really 
gonna be in trouble... you'll have to 

quit! You're completely unhinged, you 
idiot! I can see it now... dropped out of 
the workforce at age 22 due to un- 
controllable masturbation. ..oh god, 
what is wrong with you? 

But as she argued with herself, her 
anxious fingers began tugging and 
digging and massaging. She was afraid 
someone would come in. If I could just 
get rid of this tension and get rid of it 
fast, she thought. Then work would be 
easier... to concentrate on. Each rising 
and falling breath was shortened and 
then the outlandish became the 

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exciting: Do you know where you are 
and what you're doing? Oh, if those 
nags even knewl You're craxy you cunt, 
cunt. ..cunt! 

For a full minute she drooped limply 
there on the toilet, then suddenly 
gasping as if she'd heard terrible news, 
she got up quickly and went to her 

Now it was 3:30 and there was no 
more stalling to do, no more change for 
the vending machines. You better do 
some exercising, you slob, she thought 
vaguely, feeling tired. Maybe I need a 
shrink... it's some kind of compulsive 
condition. No one had looked at her at 
all when she had come back into the 
room. Who cares what they think... why 
do I have these grotesque urges? 

Outside, she could see shadows 
growing long and the sky began to glow 
purple and red behind dark cigar- 
shaped clouds. Dusk was coming and 
the city would churn away into the 
night. Somewhere out there, life was 
going on. 

What should I have for dinner? 

— by Jake 

Whenever I see "Carmen" I am re- 
minded of the factory-Hke, New York 
office where I worked in the summer of 
1965. Like Bizet's tobacco factory, it 
was hot (there was a drought and air 
conditioning usage was rationed to 
save water, the city's slogan was 
"Don't flush for everything"), the 
workers were all female, and life was 
startlingly real outside the doors we 
would rush through at 4:45 in the after- 

Johnson was president, the war in 
Vietnam was "escalating," and the Olin 
Mathiesson Chemical Corporation, a 
major gun powder producer, hired me, 
through the Olsten temp agency, to tear 
carbon papers from bills of lading and 
stuff envelopes seven hours a day, at 
$1.35 a hour ($.10 above the minimum 

I was 18 and had just finished my 
freshman year of college. In those days 
young women were called girls, and I 
was very much a girl. I was not in love, I 
do not think I thought about love. A 
stranger to passion, but not to the joys 
of making out in the back seats of big 
American cars, my disappointments 
were not deep, my faith in my future 

Back then jobs were plentiful and 
rents were cheap. It took me one day to 
find work, one week to find a 
three-room, furnished apartment on 
West 20th Street, two subway stops 
from Greenwich Village, for $80.00 a 
month. I shared the apartment with 
Terry, another college girl in New York 
for the summer. Terry knew how to type 
and found a job as a secretary, 
started in her office as a temp, but her 
boss decided to hire her full time 
without paying the agency fee. That 
meant she could not receive any phone 
calls at the office. One never knew when 
the agency would be calling to see if she 
was there. 

Every morning, dressed in a skirt and 
blouse or dress and wearing nylons, 
despite the heat, I would take the 
subway to Columbus Circle and walk 
west on 57th Street to 10th Avenue to an 
immense four- story loft building where 
Olin had its billing department on the 
third floor. The first two floors were a 
Thom McAnn shoe warehouse. 

The modular office had not yet been 
invented. I worked in a completely 
enclosed room in the middle of the floor 
that, except for its size, might have 
been a broom closet. I had never been in 

The Way It Was 


a room without windows before. It was 
something I never got used to. How 
often did I raise my eyes from my work 
and instinctively search the walls for 

As you entered this room you saw two 
rows of desks, all facing the door. On 
the right, where I sat at the last desk, 
were the five carbon-tearers. We were 
all between the ages of 18 and 20. Our 
job was to separate the carbons from a 
white original and three multi-colored 
copies. The blue copies went in one pile, 
the greens in another, and the yellows 
in a third. The whites we folded and 
stuffed into envelopes. When we had a 
respectable number of stacks of paper 
in front of us, we would bring them to 
baskets on a table near the supervisor's 
desk and pick up some more forms to be 
separated. I do not know what 
happened to them next. 

The five desks in the left row sup- 
ported comptometer machines which 

only for a few months, but what about 
the others? I don't remember anyone 
ever complaining. Three of the five 
carbon tearers lived at home, were 
engaged to be married or had serious 
boyfriends, and would, presumably, 
quit on marriage or childbirth. The 
fourth was a college-student temp like 
myself. The comptometer operators, on 
the other hand, were in their twenties 
and thirties and mostly married. (The 
husbands all worked in blue-collar jobs, 
which were common at the time but low 
status in those status-conscious years.) 
New York is a profoundly ethnic city. 
Ethnic identity is as important there as 
public school affiliation is to the English 
upper-class. Ethnically, we were quite a 
mix. Our supervisor. Miss Glenda 
Briggs, was a very thin, white, southern 
lady of about 40. The comptometer 
operators: one Yugoslav, one German, a 
New York black, a Jamaican black, and 
a Puerto Rican. The carbon tearers: two 

"My disappointments were not deep^ my faith in my future infinite. 


"\ had never been in a room without windows befo re. It was something 
Lnever got used to. " \^i^J[^ifg^^< ^il^PI^I^^^?'?!?''''"" 

-^s^i^j^;^' m-i^ygirri^ 


looked like a cross between an electric 
typewriter and a cash register. In those 
early days of office automation, they 
were a kind of "dedicated" bill 
processor. The women who operated 
these machines were the professionals 
to whom we unskilled carbon-tearers 
always deferred. 

The supervisor's desk was on the wall 
next to the door, facing the workers, like 
a school teacher facing a classroom. 

It seems incredible to me now, eleven 
women in one room, seven hours a day, 
five days a week, five of us doing totally 
mindless work, five of us having to 
concentrate on our work, and one 
watching. All in that closed space. 

It seemed incredible to me then, too. I 
could tolerate the job because it was 

Jews, two Germans, one Puerto Rican. 

Socially, as a group, we had nothing 
in common. I had discovered "pot" that 
summer, and Terry and I spent most of 
our time hanging out in the Village. We 
both went to school in Michigan and 
friends from out-of-town were forever 
crashing in our apartment. Everybody 
played the guitar that year and real life 
started after 5pm. Monday mornings I 
would take a capsule of deximil before 
leaving the apartment. On speed, 
mindless, repetitive work can almost be 
satisfying. I never discussed my home 
life at the office. 

But we talked a lot at work. Kelly, one 
of the comptrollers was pregnant. She 
had already had one miscarriage, so the 
talk had to do with her health and what 


Processed World 

the doctor had said. I listened hard to 
the secrets of womanhood. 

Mostly the talk was about what each 
had cooked for dinner last night and 
what they would make this evening. 
Having no interest in food, this was very 
boring and depressing for me. Then it 
came about that I invited some friends 
for dinner, and I didn't know how to 
cook. I explained my problem to the 
women at work, and Marie, the 
Yugoslav, gave me a recipe for meatloaf 
(ground beef, bread crumbs, onions, 
eggs, and tomato sauce) that I still use. 

The other major topic was television. 

Since we didn't have a TV, I couldn't 
participate in those conversations 

The images come back, after twenty 
years, incompletely. But I remember 
these women better than any others I 
have worked with since. I remember 
that Janet, the Jamaican, always had a 
perfectly coiffed bouffant. One day I 
complimented her for it, and she 
laughed and said it was a wig. I 
remember that Gretchen, one of the 
Germanic carbon-tearers, was tall, pale, 
and flat, and had very thick ankles. She 
was also stupid and mean. Arrogance in 


^fv'lH lo^fi^9. IH^S 

The Way It Was 

was always the same: what are you 
doing, what do you have for homework, 
I'll make chicken (or beef, or stew) for 
supper. How I pitied that child, how sad 
I was for the mother whose life revolved 
around him. (Now I, like Marie, call my 
son every afternoon, to affirm my exis- 
tence, my real life, that has nothing to 
do with the work at hand.) 

Karen, the other temp, was some- 
thing of an enigma. She was the first 
person I had ever met who could only 
speak in cliches. She talked a lot, was 
friendly, but never said anything. Once 
I asked her what her agency was 
paying, and she answered, "I never 
discuss money." She had told us that 
she had been going to a college up-state 
but had had to move back home after 
her married sister had died. "But how 
did she die?" I finally asked. "Well," 
she drawled in her sing-song voice, 
"she went shopping for some panties at 

studying business administration, and 
she had dropped" out to make some 
money so they could marry. But since 
she had taken an academic course in 
high school, she didn't have any 
marketable skills. We used to talk about 
what we read in the newspaper and play 
gin rummy during our breaks and lunch 

Glenda, our supervisor, sticks in my 
mind in her navy suits and white 
blouses and her prematurely white hair 
always perfectly curled. She had moved 

Gimbels, and she had just had a baby, 
and nobody knows what was going on in 
her mind, but she jumped in front of a 
BMT train." 

Inez, the carbon-tearer with the most 
seniority, was my only real friend on the 
job. She was a 19-year-old Puerto Rican 
woman who didn't speak Spanish. She 
had suffered for this, she confided, 
because her teacher thought she was 
cheating by being in Spanish I. Inez had 
gone to City College for one year and 
had majored in history. But she was 
now engaged to Robert, who was 







with the company from down South and 
lived with her mother, whom she had 
brought with her. In my eyes she had 
the strange power of tragic gentility and 

When a comptometer operator left 
her job, presumably for marriage or 
motherhood, the policy had been to 
train the carbon-tearer with the most 
seniority to replace her. The last woman 
to move up in the ranks this way was 
Carol a street-smart black woman whose 
sharp tongue belied the women's 
sewing circle politeness that usually 
prevailed. But, as soon as she was 
trained, Carol gave notice. She was 
moving on to a better paying job with 
another firm. 

Management's response to Carol's 
ingratitude was worthy of a modern. 


Processed World 

capitalist Soloman. Henceforth there 
would be no more on the job training; all 
future openings for comptometer oper- 
ators would be filled from the outside. 
This was devastating for Inez who was 
next in line to be promoted, and 
everyone in the office, including 
Glenda, expressed their regrets. 

Carol was replaced by Dorothy. 
Dorothy dressed like a beatnik — pierced 
ears, wide skirts — and was very un- 
happy with whatever it was that had 
fated her to this job. She bragged about 
her weekends at Cape Cod to women 
who had never heard of the place but 
knew she was bragging. She was 

extremely unpopular. Even I, who 
sympathized with her aspirations, was 
afraid to talk to her lest I became 
contaminated in the eyes of the others. 
Besides, I was the lowliest and youngest 
of temps, and she did not look to me for 

Glenda, who was a very diplomatic 
boss who could act like one of the girls 
without ever forgetting who she was, 
also knew how to put people down. She 
had no use for Carol, or later Dorothy, 
the office rebels, and used sarcasm to 
turn everyone against them. It all 
seemed dreadfully unfair. 

But the strongest image is of female 
comraderie and the giggling, the ten- 
sions, the occasional outburst of 
emotion. Normally we ate our sand- 
wiches in the employees' cafeteria, but 
on paydays the 45-minute lunch break 
was extended to one hour, so we could 
cash our checks. Then (and also when it 
was someone's birthday) we would all 


E F 


60 S»r«ot. 


42 Street 


Court House Square^ 

Times Sq 

42 Street 


Grand Central -42 St 

21 St(VanAlst) 

How lovely it was to go out together in a group, laughing, taking up 

her (in everybody?) was a display of a 
limited mind. 

Marie called her 12-year-old son up 
every afternoon from the phone on the 
supervisor's desk. The conversation 

go to lunch together at an Italian 
restaurant and even have a cocktail. 
How lovely it was to go out together in a 
group, laughing, taking up the whole 
sidewalk, in the sunshine! 

by Ana Logue 


The Politics of Middle Management by 
Earl Shorris, 1981, Penguin Books. 
Reviewed by Lucius Cabins. 

During my time as a temp in 
downtown San Francisco I worked for 
many different managers. I never be- 
came particularly friendly with them, 
but I did fmd ways to "manage" my 
managers. Mostly they left me alone as 
long as they got the work they wanted 
out of me. 

Though I never was close to any man- 
agers, it was obvious that most of them 
suffered the same intimidation and 
hassles that I faced as their peon. But if 
bosses were as oppressed as I was, I 
reasoned, why were they so willing, 

even eager, to carry out the ridiculous 
dictates of the company? How had they 
turned into complacent embodiments of 
corporate policies? Why were they so 
ready to enforce completely arbitrary 
policies which oppressed them as much 
as me? It couldn't just be the money, or 
could it? 

"Scenes From Corporate Life" , a de- 
tailed exploration of the corporate 
manager's life, is an attempt to answer 
these questions. The book, which origi- 
nally had the same title as this review, 
depicts the duplicity, shallowness, 
manipulations, and general stupidity 
that prevail among managers. The por- 
trait will be familiar to anyone who has 
labored in the office world. Earl Shorris 

cont'd, on page 36 

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cont'd, from page 33 

(who was a long-time middle manager 
himself) argues convincingly that com- 
mon business practices produce cor- 
porations which are essentially total- 
itarian institutions. 

For Shorris, totalitarianism is the 
process of destroying autonomy. Cor- 
porate totalitarianism idolizes efficiency 
in its bureaucracies and takes its ideol- 
ogy from industrial psychology, man- 
agement textbooks, and classes. The 
result is a microworld where the auto- 
nomy of human beings is systematically 

Among his vignettes he describes 
techniques effective in intimidating and 
controlling both managers and know- 
ledge workers. For example, the annual 
bonus system is used almost as a 
piece-rate kind of motivation for the 
middle-level employees. And yet, be- 
cause of the company's need to keep 
people off guard and unsure of them- 
selves the awarding of bonuses is often 
arbitrary and out of line with actual 
events. The ubiquitous "secret" salary 
works to keep people separate and to 
compete more intently with what they 
think the other is getting, rather than 
banding together to get the same higher 
pay. "To make atoms of the mass, cor- 
porations have no more obvious device 
than the keeping secret of men 's earn- 

But "men do not merely acquiesce, 
they choose to live under totalitarian 
conditions... out of fear, mistaking its 
effect upon them because they do not 
think of the meaning of their actions." 
Managers have accepted an external- 
ly-imposed definition of happiness (i.e. 
material wealth, career advancement) 
provided by The Organization and its 
leaders. In so doing they have ceded 
their autonomy as free human beings to 
an abstract end and reduced themselves 
to mere means. In sacrifices "for the 
company" Shorris identifies the essen- 
tial ingredient of a totalitarian society: 
human beings actively, even willingly, 
participating in self-delusion and re- 
nunciation of their own freedom, in ex- 
change for a false sense of security. 

"In the modem world a delusion 
about work and happiness enables 
people not only to endure oppression 
but to seek it and to believe that they 
are happier because of the very work 
that oppresses them.'' 

A rather dry philosophical analysis of 
totalitarianism and corporate life pre- 
faces the bulk of the book, which fea- 
tures 40-odd vignettes of typical mana- 
gerial dilemmas, followed by Shorris' 
observations. Some of the scenes in- 
volve very high-level executives, others 
involve first-line supervisors. Together, 
they illustrate the pathetic dark side of a 
manager's worklife: isolation, loneli- 
ness, the "need" to avoid seeing their 
oppression, the "desire" to obey cor- 
porate mores. The author inadvertantly 
reveals himself in many of his observa- 
tions as an example of the very dynam- 
ics he criticizes. 

• An executive who's working over- 
time to redo an error-filled report by a 
sales analyst, has an hysterical internal 
monologue of desperation and frustra- 
tion. Shorris notes that loneliness has 
less to do with solitude than it does with 
social atomization. "The loneliness that 
destroys men by atomizing them comes 
when they are among the familiar faces 
of strangers... At the heart of the 
loneliness of business one finds the es- 
sence of the notion of property : com- 
petition... Loneliness, terrible, im- 
penetrable, and as fearsome as death, 
incites men to cede themselves to some 
unifying force: the party, the state, the 
corporation. All lonely creatures are 
frightened; to be included provides the 
delusion of safety, to cede oneself 
masks the terror of loneliness, to aban- 
don autonomy avoids the risk of begin- 
nings. " Aren't these the same reasons 
people join cults and various 
"extremist" groups? 

• A middle-class manager who grew 
up to stories of his mother bringing food 
to his father at the factory where he was 
in a sit-down strike... has come to blame 
unions for inflation, and the US's sag- 
ging position in the world market. 
During a strike he crosses a picket line 

The Oppressed Middle 


to jeers of "Scab*!" and has a crisis of 
the will. He nearly becomes catatonic 
when he gets into his office. The point 
here is that the manager, unlike the 
striking workers, has no social support 
system. This manager knows it since he 
grew up in a militant union household. 
• A public relations man and his 
friend, an engineer, have fights through 
the years about the way different pro- 
cesses or products are described to the 
public; the engineer wants more techni- 
cally precise language, the PR man 
wants to make an impact by keeping 
things simple. The author notes the use 
Nazi Germany made of simplifications 
(and could also have put in some analy- 
sis of how Reagan and Co. do the same). 
What emerges is an insightful glimpse 
of language: "Simplifications are per- 
fectly opaque... simplifications impose 
'one-track thinking' upon the listener; 

they cannot be considered... In its use 
as propaganda, language passes from 
the human sphere to that of technology. 
Like technology... it does not recognize 
the right to autonomous existence of 
any person but the speaker. To disagree 
with the language of the technological 
will is to disobey.'' But one can, and 
Shorris does, disagree with and disobey 
the language of the technological-prop- 
agandistic will. 

The power of totalitarian thinking, 
according to Shorris, is a belief in the 
ultimate perfectability of the world, a 
resolution into certainty that will 
provide happiness for all forever. This 
pursuit of perfection reminds me of the 
engineer's pursuit of complete automa- 
tion, or the biologist's pursuit of 
"better" life forms through genetic en- 
gineering. The goal is to eliminate con- 
tingency, uncertainty, freedom. "To- 



Processed World 

talitarianism begins with a concept 
greater than man, and even though this 
concept is his perfection, the use of man 
as a means robs him of his dignity. To 
raise man up to perfection by debasing 
him is a contradiction: totalitarian goals 
of perfection are logically impossible." 

Against totalitarianism "stands the 
beckoning of human autonomy, with its 
promise of the joy of beginnings and the 
adventure of contingency... All rational 
men know that no matter how they 
choose they cannot eliminate unhappi- 
ness or achieve perfection in the 
world." One of Shorris' key points is 
that human society is inevitably imper- 
fect because it is intrinsically complex, 
unpredictable, full of ambiguities. He 
rejects all systems or Utopias, whether 
that of Rousseau, Plato, or Marx, on the 
grounds that such goals reduce human 
life to a means toward the abstract ends 
found in the philosophers' minds. 

But Shorris, perhaps over-involved, 
exaggerates the power and control of 
the "system." For example, he thinks 
the totalitarian system has become so 
efficient and dominant that it no longer 
depends on hysteria, war, murder or 
hate to enforce its power. Yet he real- 

izes that total efficiency is an impossible 
pursuit doomed to ultimate failure. In 
fact, totalitarian thinking is hysterical 
and does depend on hate, war and 
murder (look at the US campaign 
against Nicaragua). Totalitarian govern- 
ments or executives depend on these 
emotional bulwarks. Without hate, war 
and fear, their power would erode 

Because he overestimates its power 
Shorris is too pessimistic about resis- 
tance to the system. His claims that 
"The sudden and apparently un- 
provoked dismissal of a few people or 
even of one person makes the rest 
docile..." or "Only those who can put 
aside thought and misconstrue ex- 
perience survive" are obviously not 
always true. Otherwise how did Shorris 
survive? Many of us with experience in 
the corporate office world have des- 
paired when co-workers go along with 
the most absurd demands and expecta- 
tions with barely a peep, but we have 
also seen people question and revolt 
against what enslaves them. Individuals 
retain their autonomy, in spite of the 
best efforts of bosses to intimidate it out 
of existence. 




May 12. 1985 


wwmwww MM'mwwmw'mMMMMM 

The Oppressed Middle 


The Manager s Bias 

Shorris writes from a distinctly 
managerial perspective. For example, 
he thinks we live in a materially-glutted 
world. Although there is certainly a lot 
of waste and ostentatious wealth, there 
are many places in the world where 
there is "not enough" for basic, intel- 
ligent survival. The real glut in most 
people's lives is one of twisted images 
not goods. 

Despite his narrow view of economic 
reality it leads Shorris to an important 
perception: "...economic necessity... 
demands the creation of Sisyphean 
tasks: nothing comes to have as much 
value as something..." In particular, 
the 'nothing' of value is information. 
Too many people are engaged in the 
production and circulation of utterly 
useless information. And from this per- 
ception, he draws conclusions about the 
general uselessness of most office work. 
The computer also stands naked: "The 
computer has not led to a revolution in 
any area but records retention and 
retrieval in a society that already suffers 
from the retention and retrieval of too 
much useless information... The major 
effect of these time-saving devices has 
been the necessity of finding ways to 
waste time. " 

From within the decision making 
structures that have produced the 
rationalization of work processes, Shor- 
ris comments on the motivations of ef- 
ficiency experts. Most workers assume 
management experts are consciously 
hostile to the workers' well-being, and 
there are certainly individuals who have 
been. But Shorris defends industrial 
psychologists and management theo- 
rists as being honest fellows trying to 
improve company operations, but inad- 
vertently leading to oppressive condi- 
tions for workers. Evil or not, the hos- 
tility toward workers is built into their 
jobs. If you work for them, you realize 
their honesty or dishonesty isn't the 
point. It's what they do. 

Himself distant from the shop-floor 
realities of the factory, Shorris roman- 
ticizes the blue-collar worker's life and 

the reality of the modern trade union as 
well. Underlying this romanticization is 
his notion of 'alienation.' Since he 
rejects materialist philosophy, he also 
rejects Marxist analysis of alienation. In 
Capital alienation stems from the divi- 
sion between the individual and the 
products of his or her labor, and from 
the chasm between the individual and 
the system of social reproduction. For 
Shorris, alienation is a feeling, the es- 
sential component of human conscious- 
ness: "It is man's capacity to feel 
alienated that makes him human... 
Alienation as part of man 's conscious- 
ness always leads him toward freedom 
and improvement of the material condi- 
tions of his life... he enjoys the in- 
evitable discontent of consciousness, for 
he can compare his life to his infinite 
imagination. " 

Shorris contends that this feeling of 
alienation is precisely the autonomous 
subjectivity that the totalitarian cor- 
poration attacks. Since the 19th century, 
work has been rationalized repeatedly, 
but only in the white-collar world has 
that process has been extended to the 
workers themselves. Factory work has 
involved rationalization of the workers, 
too, but Shorris' roots in the office 
prevent his seeing this as clearly. 

Shorris believes that, contrasted to 
office workers, blue collar workers are 
dignified and relatively free. He claims 
that trade unions have provided a buffer 
between factory workers and company 
goals for rationalizing work and ul- 
timately the workers. For Shorris, 
unions are basically democratic, flexible 
institutions which have adapted very 
successfully to the modern capitalist 
economy. In so doing, they have insu- 
lated the factory worker from fear, 
which is the crucial element in the 
rationalization of men. 

In his enthusiasm for his analysis of 
unions and alienation, Shorris goes 
overboard. For example, "Such busi- 
ness tactics as multinational manufac- 
turing, 'Sunbelt strategy, ' mergers and 
acquisitions, or diversification have less 
and less effect on industrial plants and 


Processed World 

workers as unions learn to defend their 
members from the threats to wages and 
stability arising from new business 
situations. " This is patently ridiculous. 
A brief look at the steel industry and the 
Rust Bowl of Ohio-Pennsylvania or the 
copper industry of Arizona belies this 
silly claim. 

These assertions are reminiscent of 
the wistful longing for something better 
that is more typically associated with 
the frustrated low-level employee. In 
this case, however, it is the voice of an 
oppressed manager looking back down 
the social hierarchy for what seems to 
him to be a relatively idyllic life. It 
would be bad enough if he stopped at 
those comments, but he doesn't. Be- 
cause so many factory workers with 
whom he has talked define their "real" 
lives according to what they do outside 
the wage-labor arena, Shorris concludes 
the union worker is "a man very much 
like the creature dreamed of in Marx's 
German Ideology: he does one thing 
today and another tomorrow... he is 
human and free, paying but one fifth of 
his life to enjoy the rest of his days, and 
doing so for only twenty-five or thirty 
years until he retires. . . the life. . . for the 
worker in communism is beginning to 
be real for many blue collar workers. 
Leisure exists, and the blue collar 
worker enjoys his leisure without real or 
symbolic constraints." Huh?!! Sound 
like any blue collar workers you know? 

Human Thought: Seed of Revolt? 

Ultimately, Shorris pinpoints human 
oppression not in social institutions but 
in human nature itself, and concludes 
that "...the primary task of freedom is 
no less than for man to overcome his 
own nature, to do his business in a way 
befitting a creature capable of 
transcending himself." 

His strong point is the analysis of why 
people go along with the absurdity of 
modern corporate life. More than most, 
he has described in detail the 
mechanisms of domination and control. 
But in typical liberal and "idealistic" 

fashion, he sees the solution in simply 

"Only in thinking can man recognize 
his own life. In that alienated moment 
he is the subject who knows his own 
subjectivity... Only the thinking sub- 
ject, who cannot be a means, can know 
when he has been made a means in 
spite of himself... " 

When it comes to solutions or recom- 
mendations, the only specific sugges- 
tion he makes is that managers should 
see their subordinates as equals in 
order to see themselves as the equals of 
their superiors, " requires that a 
man see himself and all others as sub- 
jects, creatures who began the world 
when they came into it and continue to 
be potential beginners." 

But no mention is made of the social 
system, part of which he has so as- 
siduously taken apart during the book. 
It's as if he himself cannot identify his 
own oppressor: "Without knowledge of 
their oppressors, men cannot rebel; 
they float, unable to find anything 
against which to rebel, incapable of un- 
derstanding that they are oppressed by 
the very organization that keeps them 
afloat. " We hear nothing of capitalism, 
wage-labor, the state, or existing social 
institutions in general, as being at the 
root of the problems. Instead, he ul- 
timately seeks to explain totalitarianism 
and corporate life in terms of individual 

Shorris hopes for a world of subjects 
freely contesting among themselves. 
This "human condition" is one of con- 
stant change and interpersonal conflict. 
While I agree that perfection in human 
society is an unattainable and oppres- 
sive goal, I think he takes far too fatalis- 
tic an attitude about human pos- 
sibilities. Whereas we might be able to 
create a society of great material abun- 
dance and a lot more fun, with far less 
work and virtually no coercion, if we can 
get together enough to organize it, 
Shorris settles for the discontented, 
alienated thoughts of the lone thinker. 

Changing minds is essential, but 
changing life takes collective action. 


headlines and advertisements have a constitutional right to clutter the 
visual environment; they send off whatever signals they can afford, not 
having to answer for taste or manipulation. Surely with that case, the 
sidewalks and walls around town — even the state-sanctioned message 
areas — are at the mercy of we seeing passersby. 

Not to respond is submission. Scratch the cement while it is wet or 
you'll have to take a chisel to it later. Why go mad as hell when you can 
speak your peace on a prime-time bit of sidewalk or billboard? 

Postliterates unite! you've only to use your brains. 

— by Acteon Blinkage 

"Pornography is watching" 
Red light district, Amsterdam 



"Zes Syndicats sont flics du patronat 
(The unions are the bosses' pigs) 
Brussels, Belgium 

''Wer kampft, kann vetlieren; Wer 

nicht kampft, nat schon verloven 

(He who fights may lose; but he who 

doesn't fight has already lost) 

Hamburg, W. Germany 

"You Done Them Chickens 

'Todt den computerspezialisten 
(Death to computer specialists) 

CTll 1 U 

I * # 

"Selective Service Registration: It's 
quick, it's easy, and it's a trap for 
assholes! ' ' 

Berkeley, California 

' 'Kill Sectarianism, Not Workers ' ' 
Falls Road, Belfast, N. Ireland 


'?> «.:«; ki! 



"La policia con Franco no moria" 
(The police didn't die with Franco) 
Barcelona, Spain 

It is part of the widespread vandalism, 

the mood to destroy, 

the brutalism that is everywhere. 

— Dr. Frederick Wertham, 

quoted in The Faith ofGrafitti, 

by Norman Mailer 

Being underemployed has its advan- 
tages. Like noticing the "Graffiti 
Eraser" truck on a city street one day 
last week, and the next day arranging 
myself a ride with the crew. In existence 
for the past 3 years, the unit patrols the 
163 public schools in the Sm Francisco 
Unified School District, taking calls at 
night from principals and custodians, 
and then making the rounds the next 
day with a new list. On occasions, their 
efforts have elicited a fresh barrage of 
graffiti, and they've had to return to the 
same school the very next day. 
Sometimes the truck itself gets graf- 
fitied. One time the crew returned to a 
school they had cleaned up the previous 
day, and found "SFUSD Graffiti Eraser 
Sucks!" among the new material. 



The crew is small; just Cory and Clay. 
Cory told me I was lucky to get a chance 
to cruise the city with them. He said 
that the Dept. of Public Works, with a 
work crew of 150 and 3 trucks, would 
never allow it. SFUSD has a total crew 
of 8 painters and plasterers, and only 
one truck. 

The truck carries a sandblaster, and a 
myriad of rollers, brushes, ladders and 
5-gallon cans of paint of various 
standard colors to roughly match the 
colors of most school walls. Spray paint 
disappears rather easily under a desired 
color, although white spray paint is the 
hardest to cover, as it tends to show 
through. Permanent magic markers are 
the biggest nightmare for a graffiti 
eraser; they show through any kind of 
paint, and require a primary coat of 
pigmented shellack which must then 
dry before the wall can be painted. 
Lacquer thinner and alcohol work to 
remove graffiti from metal and glass, 
and a product called Brulin Graffiti 
Remover is also used. It works like paint 
and varnish remover, and sometimes 
turns plexiglass white. Although bare 
concrete walls and sidewalks are sand- 
blasted to get rid of graffiti, smart 
graffiti bandits seal their graffiti with a 

silicon gel; especially effective on 
porous concrete surfaces, like side- 
walks; to make the surface hard like 
glass, and resist sandblasting. The 
silicon gel is also effective for sealing 
graffiti on glass and metal surfaces. I 
asked about a special urethane varnish 
recently developed, celebrated for its 
ability to make walls graffiti-resistant. It 
creates a clear plastic coating like 
formica, and graffiti washes right off. 
Clay told me it's true that the graffiti 
washes off, but it requires substantial 
effort and the coating wears off after 
about two years. 

"Graffiti erasing is a perpetual job," 
Clay says, and graffiti in the public 
schools is on the rise. They used to have 
a list of about 35 schools that they would 
patrol once a week, but now the 
situation has gotten so bad that they're 
swamped with calls everyday and no 
longer have time to patrol. When I 
asked why they thought that schoolkids 
do so much graffiti. Clay responded that 
they do so out of a need for some form of 
expression, and agreed that kids are 
denied that opportunity in other aspects 
of school experience. 

— Zoe Noe 

Mind Games 

Graphic by Joe Schwind 

Mind Games 


The world of artificial intelligence 
research can be divided up a lot of dif- 
ferent ways, but the most obvious split 
is between researchers interested in 
being god and researchers interested in 
being rich. The members of the first 
group, the AI "scientists," lend the 
discipline its special charm. They want 
to study intelligence, both human and 
"pure" by simulating it on machines. 
But it's the ethos of the second group, 
the "engineers," that dominates to- 
day's AI establishment. It's their ac- 
complishments that have allowed AI to 
shed its reputation as a "scientific con 
game" (Business Week) and to become 
as it was recently described in Fortune 
magazine, "the biggest technology 
craze since genetic engineering." 

The engineers like to bask in the 
reflected glory of the AI scientists, but 
they tend to be practical men, well- 
schooled in the priorities of economic 
society. They too worship at the church 
of machine intelligence, but only on 
Sundays. During the week, they work 
the rich lodes of "expert systems" 
technology, building systems without 
claims to consciousness, but able to 
simulate human skills in economically 
significant knowledge-based occupa- 
tions. (The AI market is now expected to 
reach $2.8 billion by 1990. AI stocks are 
growing at an annual rate of 30%.) 

"Expert" Systems 

Occupying the attention of both AI 
engineers and profit-minded entrepre- 
neurs are the so-called "expert sys- 
tems." (An expert is a person with a 
mature, practiced knowledge of some 
limited aspect of the world. Expert 
systems, computer programs with no 
social experience, cannot really be 
expert at anything; they can have no 
mature, practiced knowledge. But in the 
anthropomorphized language of AI, 
where words like "expert," "under- 
standing," and "intelligence" are used 
with astounding — and self-serving — 
naivete, accuracy will not do. Mystifi- 
cation is good for business.) 

Expert systems typically consist of 
two parts: the "knowledge base" or 
"rule base," which describes some 
little corner of the world — some "do- 
main" or "microworld"; and the "in- 
ference engine," which climbs around 
in the knowledge base looking for con- 
nections and correspondences. "The 
primary source of power... is informal 
reasoning based on extensive know- 
ledge painstakingly culled from human 
experts," explained Doug Lenat in an 
article that appeared in Scientific Amer- 
ican in Sept. '84. "In most of the pro- 
grams the knowledge is encoded in the 
forms of hundreds of if-then rules of 
thumb, or heuristics. The rules con- 
strain search by guiding the program's 
attention towards the most likely solu- 
tions. Moreover... expert systems are 
able to explain all their inferences in 
terms a human will accept. The ex- 
planation can be provided because 
decisions are based on rules taught by 
human experts rather than the abstract 
rules of formal logic." 

The excitement about expert systems 
(and the venture capital) is rooted in the 
economic significance of these "struc- 
tural selection problems." Expert sys- 
tems are creatures of microworlds, and 
the hope is that they'll soon negotiate 
these microworlds well enough to ef- 
fectively replace human beings. 

Some recent expert systems, and 
their areas or expertise, are CADU- 
CEUS II (medical diagnosis), PROS- 
PECTOR (geological analysis), CATS-1 
(locomotive trouble shooting), DIP- 
METER adviser (sample oil well analy- 
sis), and Rl/XCON-XSEL (computer 
system sales support and configura- 
tion.) Note that the kinds of things they 
do are all highly technical, involve lots 
of facts, and are clearly isolated from 
the ambiguities of the social world. 

Such isolation is the key. If our sloppy 
social universe can be "rationalized" 
into piles of predictable little micro- 
worlds, then it will be amenable to 
knowledge-based computerization. Like 
automated teller machines, expert sys- 
tems may soon be everywhere: 


Processed World 


n=l ^ 



Government Electronics Group 

• In financial services like personal 
financial planning, insurance under- 
writing, and investment portfolio analy- 
sis. (This is an area where yuppie jobs 
may soon be under direct threat.) 

• In medicine, as doctors get used to 
using systems like HELP and CADU- 
CEUS II as interactive encyclopedias 
and diagnostic aids. These systems will 
also be a great boon to lawyers special- 
izing in malpractice suits. 

• In equipment maintenance and diag- 
nosis. "Expert [systems] are great at 
diagnosis," said one GE engineer. In 
addition to locomotives, susceptible 
systems include printed circuit boards, 
telephone cables, jet engines, and cars. 

• In manufacturing. "Expert systems 
can help plan, schedule, and control the 
production process, monitor and replen- 
ish inventories..., diagnose malfunc- 
tions and alert proper parties about the 
problem." (Infosystems, Aug. '83). 

• In military and counterintelligence, 
especially as aids for harried techni- 
cians trying to cope with information 

But Do They Work? 

If these systems work, or if they can 
be made to work, then we might be 
willing to agree with the AI hype that 
the "second computer revolution" may 
indeed be the "important one." But do 

they work, and, if so, in what sense? 

Many expert systems have turned out 
to be quite fallible. "The majority of AI 
programs existing today don't work," a 
Silicon Valley hacker told me flatly, 
"and the majority of people engaged in 
AI research are hucksters. They're not 
serious people. They've got a nice 
wagon and they're gonna ride it. 
They're not even seriously interested in 
the programs anymore." 

Fortune magazine is generally more 
supportive, though it troubles itself, in 
its latest AI article, published last 
August, to backpeddle on some of its 
own inflated claims of several years 
ago. Referring to PROSPECTOR, one of 
the six or so expert systems always cited 
as evidence that human expertise can 
be successfully codified in sets of rules. 
Fortune asserted that PROSPECTOR'S 
achievements aren't all they've been 
cracked up to be: "In fact, the initial 
discovery of molybdenum [touted as 
PROSPECTOR'S greatest feat] was 
made by humans, though PROSPEC- 
TOR later found more ore." 

Still, despite scattered discouraging 
words from expert critics, the AI engi- 
neers are steaming full speed ahead. 
Human Edge software in Palo Alto is 
already marketing "life-strategy" aids 
for insecure moderns: NEGOTIATION 
EDGE to help you psych out your 
opponent on the corporate battlefield, 
SALES EDGE to help you close that big 
deal, MANAGEMENT EDGE to help 
you manipulate your employees. All are 
based on something called "human 
factors analysis." 

And beyond the horizon, there's the 
blue sky. Listen to Ronald J. Brachman, 
head of knowledge representation and 
reasoning research at Fairchild Camera 
and Instrument Corporation: 
"Wouldn't it be nice if... instead of 
writing ideas down I spoke into my little 
tape recorder... It thinks for a few 
minutes, then it realizes that I've had 
the same thought a couple of times in 
the past few months. It says, 'Maybe 
you're on to something.' " One won- 

Mind Games 


ders what the head of knowledge engi- 
neering at one of the biggest military 
contractors in Silicon Valley might be on 
to. But I suppose that's besides the 
point, which is to show the dreams of AI 
"engineers" fading off into the myths 
of the AI "scientists" — those who 
would be rich regarding those who 
would be god. Mr. Brachman's little 
assistant is no mere expert system; it 
not only speaks natural English, it 
understands that English well enough 
to recognize two utterances as being 
about the same thing even when spoken 
in different contexts. And it can classify 
and cross-classify new thoughts, 
thoughts which it can itself recognize as 
interesting and original. Perhaps, un- 
like Mr. Brachman, it'll someday won- 
der what it's doing at Fairchild. 

Machines Can't Talk 

The Artificial Intelligence program at 
UC Berkeley is trying to teach com- 
puters to do things like recognizing a 
face in a crowd, or carrying on a 
coherent conversation in a "natural" 
language like English or Japanese. 
Without such everyday abilities — abili- 
ties so basic we take them completely 
for granted — how could we be said to be 
intelligent at all? Likewise machines? 

The culture of AI encourages a firm, 
even snide, conviction that it's just a 
matter of time. It thrives on exaggera- 
tion, and refuses to examine its own 
failures. Yet there are plenty. Take the 
understanding of "natural languages" 
(as opposed to formal languages like 
FORTRAN or PASCAL.) Humans do it 
effortlessly, but AI programs still 
can't — even after thirty years of hack- 
ing. Overconfident pronouncements 
that "natural language understanding 
is just around the corner" were common 
in the 50's, but repeated failure led to 
declines in funding, accusations of 
fraud, and widespread disillusionment. 

((Today's AI businessmen are again 
claiming an imminent solution. In the 
November issue of Datamation, directly 
across from an excellent article entitled 

"The Overselling of Expert Systems," 
lies a full page ad for a microcomputer- 
based system that "speaks English." 
Oh? One wonders, then, what Stanford 
will be doing with all the megabucks it 
just received to study "situated lan- 
guage" [language in context]. With all 
the money to be made of AI hype, 
there's a real chance of an embar- 
rassing history repeating itself.) 

Machine translation floundered be- 
cause natural language is essentially — 
not incidentally — ambiguous; meaning 
always depends on context. My favorite 
example is the classic, "I like her 
cooking," a statement likely to be un- 
derstood differently if the speaker is a 
cannibal rather than a middle Ameri- 
can. Everyday language is pervaded by 
unconscious metaphor, as when one 
says, 'I lost two hours trying to get my 
meaning across.' Virtually every word 
has an open-ended field of meanings 
that shade gradually from those that 
seem utterly literal to those that are 
clearly metaphorical." In order to trans- 
late a text, the computer must first 
"understand" it. 

TA For Computers 

Obviously AI scientists have a long 
way to go, but most see no intrinsic 
limits to machine understanding. UCB 
proceeds by giving programs "know- 
ledge" about situations which they can 


Processed World 

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then use to "understand" texts of 
various kinds. 

Yale students have built a number of 
"story understanding systems," the 
most striking of which is "IPP," a 
system which uses knowledge of terror- 
ism to read news stories, learn from 
them, and answer questions about 
them. It can even make generalizations: 
Italian terrorists tend to kidnap busi- 
nessmen; IRA terrorists are more likely 
to send letter bombs. 

How much can we expect a program 
like IPP to learn? How long will it be 
before its "understanding" can be 
"generalized" from the microworld of 
terrorism to human life as a whole? In 
what sense can it be said to understand 
terrorism at all, if it cannot also under- 
stand misery, violence, and the politics 
of frustration? If it isn't really under- 
standing anything, then what exactly is 
it doing, and what would it mean for it 
to do it better? Difficult questions these. 

The foundation stone of this 'IPP' 
school of AI is the "script." Remember 
the script? Remember that particularly 
mechanistic pop psychology called 
"Transactional Analysis"? It too was 
based upon the notion of scripts, and 

the similarity is more than metaphori- 

In TA, a "script" is a series of 
habitual stereotyped responses that we 
unconsciously "run" like tapes as we 
stumble through life. Thus if someone 
we know acts helpless and hurt, we 
might want to "rescue" them because 
we have been "programmed" by our 
life experience to do so. 

In the AI universe the word "script'* 
is used in virtually the same way, 
to denote a standard set of expectations 
about a stereotyped situation that we 
use to guide our perceptions and res- 
ponses. When we enter a restaurant we 
unconsciously refer to a restaurant 
script, which tells us what to do — sit 
down and wait for a waiter, order, eat, 
pay before leaving, etc. The restaurant 
is treated as a microworld, and the 
script guides the interpretation of 
events within it; once a script has been 
locked in, then the context is known, 
and the ambiguity tamed. 

But while behavior in a restaurant 
may be more or less a matter of routine, 
what about deciding which restaurant to 
go to? Or whether to go to a restaurant 
at all? Or recognizing a restaurant when 

Mind Games 


you see one? These problems aren't 
always easy for humans, and their 
solution requires more than the use of 
scripts. In fact, the research going on at 
Berkeley is specifically aimed at going 
beyond script-bound systems, by con- 
structing programs that have "goals" 
and make "plans" to achieve those 
goals. Grad students even torture their 
programs by giving them multiple 
conflicting goals, and hacking at them 
until they can satisfy them all. 


The academic zone of AI is called 
"cognitive studies." At UC Berkeley, 
however, cognitive studies is not just 
AI; the program is interdisciplinary and 
includes philosophers, anthropologists, 
psychologists, and linguists. (The neur- 
ophysiologists, I was told, have their 
own problems.) Specifically, it includes 
Hubert Dreyfus and John Searle, two of 
the most persistent critics of the whole 
AI enterprise. If Cal hasn't yet made it 
onto the AI map (and it hasn't), it's 
probably fair to say that it's still the 
capital of the anti-AI forces, a status it 
first earned in 1972 with the publication 
of Dreyfus 's What Computers Can't Do. 

Dreyfus thinks he's winning. In the 
revised edition of his book, published in 
1979, he claimed that "there is now 
general agreement that... intelligence 
requires understanding, and under- 
standing requires giving the computer 
the background of common sense that 
adult human beings have by virtue of 
having bodies, interacting skillfully in 
the material world, and being trained 
into a culture." 

In the real world of AI, Dreyfus's 
notion of being "trained into a culture" 
is so far beyond the horizon as to be 
inconceivable. Far from having socie- 
ties, and thus learning from each other, 
today's AI programs rarely even learn 
for themselves. There may finally be 
some exceptions, like Doug Lenart's 
EURISKO, but most program start from 
scratch, with only what the program- 
mers and knowledge engineers have 

given them, each time they're turned 

Few AI scientists would accpet Drey- 
fus's claim that real machine intelli- 
gence requires not only learning, but 
bodies and culture as well. Most of 
them agree, in principle if not in prose, 
with their high priest, MIT's Marvin 
Minsky. Minsky believes that the body 
is "a tele-operator for the brain," and 
the brain, in turn, a "meat machine." 

The Dark Side of AI 

"Technical people rely upon their ties 
with power because it is access to that 
power, with its huge resources, that 
allows them to dream, the assumption 
of that power that encourages them to 
dream in an expansive fashion, and the 
reality of that power that brings their 
dreams to life." 

— David Noble, 
The Forces of Production 

As fascinating as the debates within 
AI have become in recent years, one 
can't help but notice the small role they 
allocate to social considerations. Formal 
methods have come under attack, but 
generally in an abstract fashion. That 
the prestige of these methods might 
exemplify some imbalance in our rela- 
tionship to science, some dark side of 
science itself, or even some large social 
malevolence — these are thoughts rarely 
heard even among the critics of scien- 
tific arrogance. 

For that reason, we must now drop 
from the atmospherics of AI research to 
the charred fields of earth. The abrupt- 
ness of the transition can't be avoided: 
science cloaks itself in wonder, indeed it 
provides its own mythology, yet behind 
that mythology are always the prosaic 
realities of social life. 

When the first industrial revolution 
was still picking up steam, Fredrick 
Taylor invented "time/motion" study, 
a discipline predicated on the realiza- 
tion that skill-based manufacturing 
could be redesigned to eliminate the 
skill— and with it the autonomy— of the 


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worker. The current AI expert systems' 
insight that much ol human skill can be 
extracted by knowledge engineers, 
codified into rules and heuristics, and 
immortalized on magnetic disks is es- 
sentially the same. 

Once manufacturing could be "ra- 
tionalized," automation became not 
only possible, but in the eyes of the 
faithful, necessary. It also turned out to 
be terrifically difficult, for reality was 
more complex than the visions of the 
engineers. Workers, it turned out, had 
lots of "implicit skills" that the time/ 
motion men hadn't taken into account. 
Think of these skills as the ones 
managers and engineers can't see. 
They're not in the formal job descrip- 
tion, yet without them the wheels would 
grind to a halt. And they've constituted 
an important barrier to total automa- 
tion: there must be a human machinist 
around to ease the pressure on the lathe 
when an anomalous cast comes down 
the line, to "work around" the uneven- 
ness of nature; bosses must have secre- 
taries, to correct their English if for no 
other reason. 

Today's latest automation craze, 
"adaptive control," is intended to con- 
tinue the quest for the engineer's 
grail — the total elimination of human 
labor. To that end the designers of 
factory automation systems are trying to 
substitute delicate feedback mechan- 
isms, sophisticated sensors, and even 
AI for the human skills that remain in 
the work process. 

Looking back on industrial automa- 
tion, David Nobel remarked that "Men 
behaving like machines paved the way 
for machines without men." By that 
measure, we must assume ourselves 
well on the way to a highly automated 
society. By and large, work will resist 
total automation — in spite of the theolo- 
gical ideal of a totally automated 
factory, some humans will remain — but 
there's no good reason to doubt that the 
trend towards mechanization will con- 
tinue. Among the professions, automa- 
tion will sometimes be hard to se6, 
. hidden within the increasing sophistica- 

tion of tools still nominally wielded by 
men and women. But paradoxically, the 
automation of mental labor may, in 
many cases, turn out to be easier than 
the automation of manual labor. Com- 
puters are, after all, ideally suited to the 
manipulation of symbols, far more 
suited than one of today's primitive 
robots to the manipulation of things. 
The top tier of our emerging two-tier 
society may eventually turn out to be a 
lot smaller than many imagine. 

As AI comes to be the basis of a new 
wave of automation, a wave that will 
sweep the professionals up with the 
manual workers, we're likely to see new 
kinds of resistance developing. We 
know that there's already been some, 
for DEC (Digital Equipment Corpora- 
tion), a company with an active program 
of internal Al-based automation, has 
been strangely public about the prob- 
lems it has encountered. Arnold Kraft, 
head of corporate AI marketing at DEC: 
"I fought resistance to our VAX- 
configuration project tooth and nail 
every day. Other individuals in the 
company will look at AI and be scared of 
it. They say, ' AI is going to take my job. 
Where am I? I am not going to use this. 
Go away!' Literally, they say 'Go 
Away!'" (Computer Decisions, August 

Professionals rarely have such fore- 
sight, though we may hope to see this 
change in the years ahead. Frederick 
Hayes-Roth, chief scientist at Teknow- 
ledge, a Palo Alto-based firm, with a 
reputation for preaching the true gospel 
of AI, put it this way: "The first sign of 
machine displacement of human pro- 
fessionals is standardization of the pro- 
fessional's methodology. Professional 
work generally resists standardization 
and integration. Over time, however, 
standard methods of adequate efficien- 
cy often emerge." More specifically: 
"Design, diagnosis, process control, 
and flying are tasks that seem most 
susceptible to the current capabilities of 
knowledge systems. They are composed 
largely of sensor interpretation (except- 
ing design), of symbolic reasoning, and 

Mind Games 


of heuristic planning — all within the 
purview of knowledge systems. The 
major obstacles to automation involving 
these jobs will probably by the lack of 
standardized notations and instrumen- 
tation, and, particularly, in the case of 
pilots, professional resistance." Hayes- 
Roth is, of course, paid to be optimistic, 
but still, he predicts "fully automated 
air-traffic control" by 1990-2000. Too 
bad about PATCO. 

Automating The Military 

On October 28, 1983, the Defense 
Advanced Research Projects Agency 
(DARPA) announced the Strategic G)m- 
puting Initiative (SCI), launching a five- 
year, $600-million program to harness 
AI to military purposes. The immediate 
goals of the program are "autonomous 
tanks" (killer robots for the Army, a 
"pilot's associate" for the Air Force, 
and "intelligent battle management 
systems" for the Navy. If things go 
according to plan, all will be built with 
the new gallium arsenide technology, 
which, unlike silicon, is radiation resis- 
tant. The better to fight a protracted 
nuclear war with, my dear. 

And these are just three tips of an 
expanding iceberg. Machine intelli- 
gence, were it ever to work, would allow 

tfte military to switch over to auton- 
omous and semi-autonomous systems 
capable of managing the ever-increas- 
ing speed and complexity of "modern" 
warfare. Defense Electronics recently 
quoted Robert Kahn, director of infor- 
mation processing technology at DAR- 
PA, as saying that "within five years, 
we will see the services start clamoring 
for AI." 

High on the list of military programs 
slated to benefit from the SCI is 
Reagan's proposed "Star Wars" sys- 
tem, a ballistic missile "defense" ap- 
paratus which would require highly 
automated, virtually autonomous mili- 
tary satellites able to act quickly enough 
to knock out Soviet missiles in their 
"boost" phase, before they release 
their warheads. Such a system would be 
equivalent to automated launch-on- 
warning; its use would be an act of war. 

Would the military boys be dumb 
enough to hand over control to a 
computer? Well, consider this excerpt 
from a congressional hearing on Star 
Wars, as quoted in the LA Times on 
April 26, 1984: 


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At that, Sen. Paul Tsongas exploded: 
"Perhaps we should run R2-D2 for 
President in the 1990s. At least he'd be 
on line all the time. 

"Has anyone told the President that 
he's out of the decision making pro- 
cess?" Tsongas demanded. 

"I certainly haven't, Kenworth (Rea- 
gan science advisor) said. 

Sen. Joseph R. Biden pressed the 
issue over whether an error might 
provoke the Soviets to launch a real 
attack. "Let's assume the President 
himself were to make a mistake...," he 

"Why?" interrupted Cooper [head of 
DARPA]. "We might have the tech- 
nology so he couldn't make a mistake." 

"OK," said Biden. "You've con- 
vinced me. You've convinced me that I 
don't want you running this program." 

But his replacement, were Cooper to 
lose his job, would more than likely 
worship at the same church. His faith in 
the perfectability of machine intelli- 
gence is a common canon of AI. This is 
not the hard-headed realism of sober 
military men, compelled by harsh 
reality to extreme measures. It is rather 
the dangerous fantasy of powerful men 

overcome by their own mythologies, 
mythologies which flourish in the super- 
heated rhetoric of the AI culture. 

The military is a bureaucracy like any 
other, so it's not surprising to fmd that 
its top level planners suffer the same 
engineer's ideology of technical perfec- 
tability as do their civilian counterparts. 
Likewise, we can expect resistance to 
Al-based automation from military 
middle- management. Already there are 
signs of it. Gary Martins, a military AI 
specialist, from an interview in Defense 
Electronics (Jan. '83): "Machines that 
appear to threaten the autonomy and 
integrity of commanders cannot expect 
easy acceptance; it would be disastrous 
to introduce them by fiat. We should be 
studying how to design military man- 
agement systems that reinforce, rather 
than undermine, the status and 
functionality of their middle-level 

One noteworthy thing about some 
"user interfaces": Each time the 
system refers to its knowledge-base it 
uses the idiom "you taught me" to alert 
the operator. This device was developed 
for the MYCIN system, an expert on 
infectious diseases, in order to over- 
come resistance from doctors. It 
reappears unchanged, in a system 
designed for tank warfare management 
in Europe. A fine example of what 
political scientist Harold Laski had in 
mind when he noted that "in the new 
warfare the engineering factory is a unit 
of the Army, and the worker may be in 
uniform without being aware of it. ' ' 

Overdesigned and unreliable techno- 
logies, when used for manufacturing, 
can lead to serious social and economic 
problems. But such "baroque" tech- 
nologies, integrated into nuclear war 
fighting systems, would be absurdly 
dangerous. For this reason, Computer 
Professionals For Social Responsiblity 
has stressed the "inherent limits of 
computer reliability" in its attacks on 
the SCI. T\}e authors of Strategic 
Computing, an Assessment, assert, "In 
terms of their fundamental limitations, 
AI systems are no different than other 

Mind Games 




For those daze when too much 


causes breakthrough Thinking!! 

computer systems... The hope that AI 
could cope with uncertainty is under- 
standable, since there is no doubt that 
they are more flexible than traditional 
computer systems. It is understandable, 
but it is wrong." 

Unfortunately, all indications are 
that, given the narrowing time-frames 
of modern warfare, the interplay 
between technological and bureaucratic 
competition, and the penetration of the 
engineers' ideology into the military 
ranks, we can expect the Pentagon to 
increasingly rely on high technology, 
including AI, as a "force and intelli- 
gence multiplier." The TERCOM 
guidance system in Cruise Missiles, for 
example, is based directly on AI pattern 

matching techniques. The end result 
will likely be an incredibly complex, 
poorly tested, hair-trigger amalgama- 
tion of over-advertised computer tech- 
nology and overkill nuclear arsenals. 
Unfortunately, the warheads them- 
selves, unlike the systems within which 
they will be embedded, can be counted 
upon to work. 

And the whole military AI program is 
only a subset of a truly massive thrust 
for military computation of all sorts: a 
study by the Congressional Office of 
Technology Assessment found that in 
1983 the Defense Dept. accounted for 
69% of the basic research in electrical^ 
engineering and 54.8% of research in 
computer science. The DOD's domi- 


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nance was even greater in applied 
research, in which it paid for 90.5% of 
research in electrical engineering and 
86.7% of research in computer sci- 

Defensive Rationalizations 

There are many liberals, even left- 
liberals, in the AI community, but few 
of them have rebelled against the SCI. 
Why? To some degree because of the 
Big Lie of "national defense," but there 
are other reasons given as well: 

• Many of them don't really think this 
stuff will work anyway. 

• Some of them will only do basic 
research, which "will be useful to 
civilians as well." 

• Most of them believe that the 
military will get whatever it wants 

• All of them need jobs. 

The first reason seems peculiar to AI, 
but perhaps I'm naive. Consider, 
though, the second. Bob Wilinsky, a 
professor at UC Berkeley: "DOD money 
comes in different flavors. I have 6.1 
money... it's really pure research. It 
goes all the way up to 6.13, which is, 
like, procurement for bombs. Now 
Strategic Computing is technically 
listed as a 6.2 activity [applied re- 
search], but what'll happen is, there'll 
be people in the business world that'll 
say 'OK, killer robots, we don't care,' 
and there'll be people in industry that 
say, 'OK, I want to make a LISP 
machine that's 100 times faster than the 
ones we have today. I'm not gonna 
make one special for tanks or anything.' 
So the work tends to get divided up." 

Actually, it sounds more like a co- 
operative effort. The liberal scientists 
draw the line at basic research; they 
won't work on tanks, but they're willing 
to help provide what the anti-military 
physicist Bruno Vitale calls a "rich 
technological menu," a menu immedi- 
ately scanned by the iron men of the 

Anti-military scientists have few 
choices. They can restrict themselves to 
basic research, and even indulge the 

illusion that they no longer contribute lo 
the war machine. Or they can grasp for 
the straws of socially useful applica- 
tions: AI assisted medicine, space 
research, etc. Whatever they choose, 
they have not escaped the web that 
binds science to the military. The mili- 
tary fate of the space shuttle program 
demonstrates this well enough. In a 
time when the military has come to 
control so much of the resources of civil 
society, the only way for a scientist to 
opt out is by quitting the priesthood al- 
together, and this is no easy decision. 

But let's assume, for the sake of con- 
versation, that we don't have to worry 
about militarism, or unemployment, or 
industrial automation. Are we then free 
to return to our technological delirium? 

Unfortunately, there's another prob- 
lem, a problem for which AI itself is 
almost the best metaphor. Think of the 
images it invokes, of the blurring of the 
line between humanity and machinery 
from which the idea of AI derives its 
evocative power. Think of yourself as a 
machine. Or better, think of society as a 
machine — fixed, programmed, rigid. 







Mind Games 


The second problem is bureaucracy, the 
programmed society, the computer 
state, 1984. 

Of course, not everyone's worried. 
The dystopia of 1984 is balanced, in the 
popular mind, by the Utopia of flexible, 
decentralized, and now intelligent com- 
puters. The unexamined view that mic- 
ro-computers will automatically lead to 
"electronic democracy" is so common 
that it's hard to cross the street without 
stepping in it. And most computer 
scientists tend to agree, at least in 
principle. Bob Wilinsky, for example, 
believes that the old nightmare of the 
computer state is rooted in an archaic 
technology, and that "as computers get 
more intelligent we'll be able to have 
a more flexible bureaucracy as opposed 
to a more rigid bureaucracy..." 

Utopian may not be the right word for 
such attitudes. The Utopians were well- 
meaning and generally powerless; the 
spokesmen of progress are neither. 
Scientists like Wilinsky are well-funded 
and often quoted, and if the information 
age has a dark side, they have a special 
responsibility to bring it out. It is 
through them that we encounter these 
new machines, and the stories they 
choose to tell us will deeply color our 
images of the future. Their optimism is 
too convenient; we have the right to ask 
for a deeper examination. 

Machine Society 

Imagine yourself at a bank, frus- 
trated, up against some arbitrary rule or 
procedure. Told that "the computer 
can't do it," you will likely give up. 
"What's happened here is a shifting of 
the sense of who is responsible for 
policy, who is responsible for decisions, 
away from some person or group of 
people who actually are responsible in 
the social sense, to some inanimate 
object in which their decisions have been 
embodied." Or as Emerson put it, 
"things are in the saddle, and ride 

Now consider the bureaucracy of the 
future, where regulation books have 

been replaced by an integrated infor- 
mation system, a system that has been 
given language. Terry Winograd, an AI 
researcher, quotes from a letter he 

"From my point of view natural 
language processing is unethical, for 
one main reason. It plays on the central 
position which language holds in human 
behavior. I suggest that the deep 
involvement Weizenbaum found some 
people have with ELIZA [a program 
which imitates a Rogerian therapist] is 
due to the intensity with which most 
people react to language in any form. 
When a person receives a linguistic 
utterance in any form, the person reacts 
much as a dog reacts to an odor. We are 
creatures of language. Since this is so, it 
is my feeling that baiting people with 
strings of characters, clearly intended 
by someone to be interpreted as sym- 
bols, is as much a misrepresentation as 
would be your attempt to sell me 
property for which you had a false deed. 
In both cases an attempt is being made 
to encourage someone to believe that 
something is a thing other than what it 
is, and only one party in the interaction 
is aware of the deception. I will put it a 
lot stronger: from my point of view, 
encouraging people to regard machine 
generated strings of tokens as linguistic 
utterances, is criminal, and should be 
treated as criminal activity." 


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r . 

The threat of the computer state is 
usually seen as a threat to the liberty of 
the individual. Seen in this way, the 
threat is real enough, but it remains 
manageable. But Winograd's letter 
describes a deeper image of the threat. 
Think of it not as the vulnerability of 
individuals, but rather as a decisive 
shift in social power from individuals to 
institutions. The shift began long ago, 
with the rise of hierarchy and class. It 
was formalized with the establishment 
of the bureaucratic capitalist state, and 
now we can imagine its apotheosis. 
Bureaucracy has always been seen as 
machine society; soon the machine may 
find its voice. 

We are fascinated by AI because, like 
genetic engineering, it is a truly 
Promethean science. As such, it reveals 
the mythic side of all science. And the 
myth, in being made explicit, reveals 
the dismal condition of the institution of 
science itself. Shamelessly displaying 
its pretensions, the artificial intelligent- 
sia reveals as well a self-serving 
naivete, and an embarrassing entangle- 
ment with power. 

On the surface, the myth of AI is 
about the joy of creation, but a deeper 
reading forces joy to the margins. The 
myth finally emerges as a myth of 
domination, in which we wake to find 
that our magnificent tools have built us 
an "iron cage," and that we are 


Science is a flawed enterprise. It has 
brought us immense powers over the 
physical world, but is itself servile in the 
face of power. Wanting no limits on its 
freedom to dream, it shrouds itself in 
myth and ideology, and counsels us to 
use its powers unconsciously. It has not 
brought us wisdom. 

Or perhaps the condition of science 
merely reflects the condition of human- 
ity. Narrow-mindedness, arrogance, 
servility in the face of power — these are 
attributes of human beings, not of tools. 
And science is, after all, only a tool. 

Many people, when confronted with 
AI, are offended. They see its goal as an 
insult to their human dignity, a dignity 
they see as bound up with human 
uniqueness. In fact, intelligence can be 
found throughout nature, and is not 
unique to us at all. And perhaps 
someday, if we're around, we'll find it 
can emerge from semiconductors as 
well as from amino acids. In the mean- 
time we'd best seek dignity elsewhere. 
Getting control of our tools, and the 
institutions \yhich shape them, is a good 
place to start. 

— by Tom Athanasioa 

(§ntt Mort lnt0 (Sift Srtig^, 

Apologies to W. Shakespeare 

Between Oakland and San Francisco 
there stretches an 8 mile long ribbon of 
steel and concrete called the San 
Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, or the 
"Bay Bridge." It has two decks— one 
East and one West, each of them with 5 
lanes. It is well lighted, has emergency 
phones, railings, etc. It is my nemesis. 

This is the tale of a courier, or 
officially an "Outside Document Hand- 
ling Clerk." Fm not sure what the 
'outside' refers to. I drove a Chevy van 
across the Bridge 5 times a day, rain or 
shine. Monday, Wednesday and Friday 
I started at 10:00 AM, the other two 
days at noon. With luck I could be 
punching out by 9:00 PM. I was salaried 
(about $750 take-home), no overtime, 
little insurance (workman's comp), no 
union, no "ins" with the cops, no 

The route was: Downtown SF, Port of 
Oakland, Hunter's Point SF, downtown 
SF, downtown Oakland, downtown SF, 
downtown Oakland, Port of Oakland, 
downtown SF, downtown Oakland, Port 
of Oakland, Downtown Oakland, South 
San Francisco, downtown SF, SFO 
(airport), Burlingame, San Leandro, 
downtown Oakland, downtown SF, 
clock out. 

I worked for a company which had 
contracts with shipping companies and 
various freight brokers to move 

documents around. About half of my 
fellow serfs were bike messengers and 
the rest were drivers. There were two 
bosses— "Glenn Hires, Harry Fires." 
We worked out of a basement in a brick 
building in the landfill area of SF's 
financial district. We had a set daily 
route; I was responsible for moving the 
paper of one of the largest west coast 
shipping lines— American President 
Lines. They had a contract with my boss 
to avoid paying in-house (union) 
workers. More than half of my day was 
spent going between the company's 
main offices; the port facilities, the 
freight cashier in SF, the warehouse, 
and the Hunter's Point Shipyard where 
they were having some of the rust- 
buckets refurbished (said one worker 
"You couldn't pay me to go out of the 
Bay on one of those"). At night I made a 
run to South San Francisco to Federal 
Express, and later in the night to the 
airport and south to Burlingame to a 
huge liquor warehouse and some freight 
types, then across the bay to the 
Monkey Wards warehouse, and then 
back to the APL stuff. 

I liked: the bay and the chance to 
meet lots of people: clerks, teamsters, 
longshoremen, other drivers, airport 
workers, shipyard workers, secretaries, 
and even bosses. I also liked not having 
a supervisor looming over my shoulder 


Processed World 

at unannounced intervals. The weather 
was lovely, as were the lights of the city. 
I liked being able to smoke a joint and 
listen to the radio (I once heard an AM 
radio station play John Coltrane while 
the sun was out!). I liked the challenge. 

I didn't like: cabbies, cops, shitty 
drivers (lots of all of these), rain, the 
Bridge, Friday traffic, unreal demands 
on time, bitchy secretaries and 
truculant assholes. 

It was an odd job; mostly boring — 
driving or waiting around for some 
clown. Sometimes I was frustrated; 
waiting for the one elevator that goes to 
the underworld — those basements and 
loading docks that most people never 
see, or waiting for the traffic to sort 
itself out. Some of it was aggravating — 
jerks that play games to get themselves 
a whole 10 feet farther ahead (look, I 
move stuff that has deadlines like 
planes departing and I don't do this 
shit — what's so important?). At times it 
was funny, like the three times I saw 
people run into police cars. Occasionally 
there were moments of sheer terror — 
pedestrians that appeared out of 
nowhere, being rear-ended on the 
bridge, that sort of thing. 

Everybody can have a bad day, but 
for those of us who get to romp on the 
highways and byways of the U.S. a bad 
day can be remarkably grim. I was 
blown from one lane to another one 
night on the Bay Bridge. Just your basic 
"whoosh" and you're going down the 
road another 12 feet to your left. One of 
the women who worked for us had the 
steering wheel come off in her hand 
while doing an offramp in Oakland. A 
bike messenger tangled with a Muni 
bus and lost; he didn't die though, the 
driver felt it going over his bike and 
stopped. The boss saw it happen, 
picked him up out of the gutter, ascer- 
tained that he was unhurt, bought him a 
drink and fired him. He was lucky. So 
was Tim, who came in one day quite 
pale, and sat shaking for a while before 
explaining that his front tire had been 

caught in the cablecar slot while 
descending California Street. He 
could'nt slow down much — fortunately 
a car saw him coming, and got out of the 
way! (un milagro!) Tim paused and said 
"You could get hurt doing this..." 

It was interesting meeting other mes- 
sengers — the bikers have the toughest 
job and the most style. The howling 
biker, topped with a beanie with a 
propeller, was one of my favorites. I 
always wondered about this heavyset 
middle aged guy in a quasi-military 
uniform who pedaled a three wheeler 
and was always unfriendly. I was later 
told that he had been in the USAF and 
had flown too high without an oxygen 
mask and was not so good as a pilot 
after that. 

I got to know a few people from other 
companies whose schedules overlapped 
with mine. I fell in love with some — 
Mary, whom I met at the airport on 
Wednesday evenings, who had a bad 
attitude; and Claire, a pretty night supe 
at APL — a reasonable, friendly person. 
There were mail drivers and other 
drivers that I met daily. Most of the 
people that I got to know were under- 
lings like me. Clerks, secretaries, 
mailroom types, drivers and guards. 
Most of them were OK to work 
with — they had job to do, knew it and 
weren't trying to mess you up. One 
exception was this fat night supervisor 
(Brenda at APL) who interpreted a 
schedule that said "No later than 9:30 
pm" as meaning no earlier than 9:30 
pm. I eventually got a deal worked out 
with the big bad Brenda which left me 
departing at 9:00. It was the last stop in 
a long day and I can assure that the 
personnel at EDS didn't give a rat's ass. 

There were inevitable problems: 
mechanical breakdowns (rare); screw- 
ups on actually getting a vehicle, or get- 
ting one with no frills (one with windows 
and a radio rated very high); impossible 
stopsjammedintoyour route; cab drivers 
(they run on oil and gas, serve money, 
and have to do the stupidest things); 

Once More Unto the Bridge, Dear Friend 


pugnacious idiots, for whom I carried a 
tire iron under the front seat: I only had 
to wave it a couple of times. 

Two incidents of idiocy stand out. In 
Oakland as I was to make a right turn on 
a crowded street this clown in a white 
caddy stopped at the corner ahead of me 
let his friend out. People honked. As he 
eased forward, still talking to his friend, 
I passed him, Flipping the Famous 
Finger. About four blocks later he 
pulled up next to me. He leaned over 
and shouted some shit about "You can't 
talk to me like that you fuckin' 
bastard" and then hurled his Coke at 
me: He hit the inside of his car, 
splashing sugary treacle shit all over his 
nice white caddy. The light changed and 
I drove on, laughing so hard that I 
couldn't breathe. Dumb fucker. 

The second incident was not as funny 
since somebody got hurt. As I was 
pounding down Battery one night I was 
delayed by this guy driving down the 
middle of two lanes at about 9 mph. I 
flashed my lights, honked, and applied 
cheerful anglosaxon expletives to his 
wretched ancestors. When I passed him 
he of course speeded up to prevent it. 
Since I didn't drive my own car I didn't 
care and jammed on past. At the next 
light he roared up on my left and leaned 
past his female friend and started 
cussing me. I laughed at his posturing, 
clownish machismo, so he pulled a knife 
and waved it at me. He then dropped it 
into the leg of his companion, who, 
screamed. The light changed and I 
drove on, shaking my head at the idiot 
americans. Why do they act this way? I 
know my story — a tight schedule and an 
asshole boss who wouldn't take *no' for 
an answer; if I didn't make it on time 
I'm fired. What is the problem with 
these gringos? Cab drivers are driven to 
it by their cargo; 'civilians' don't have 
any such excuse. 

There were also abuses that weren't 
inevitable. Cop stupidity for one. There 
was a fair amount of that. Abrupt 
changes in my schedule were often not 

welcome. If an office moved and they 
left the stop in your route you could be 
really screwed — halfway across town, 
one way streets, no parking. Yet all of 
the patrones seemed to think that 
everything could stay the same. They 
would be hurt if you questioned their 
wisdom. They would fire you if you 
persisted in questioning them. 

Inevitably, we thought of ways to 
fight back. In a job of enforced isolation, 
our methods tended toward the solo. 
We had talked a few times about 
strikes, but it wouldn't work; not if it 
was just our company alone. The patron 
would just hire temps from some other 
company, do some of it on his own, and 
to hell with us. We could be easily 
replaced — "Can you drive? You're 
hired!" If we could get others not to 
replace us... But there was no easy way; 
too hard to make contact given the job 
structure and the transient nature of the 

We talked once about on-the-job 
action. The simplest would be for 
everybody to obey the law. This was 
driven home one day when the boss 
gave us a big lecture about being legal 
(with routes that required you to go the 
wrong way on one-way streets). Later I 
saw him in his three-piece on a moped, 
speeding the wrong way down a one 
way street. If I obeyed the speed limit, 
never made those quick dashes, my 
route would have taken twice as long. 
An effective slow down could still get us 

I found a minor release in a childish 
game. It started innocently enough; I 
had to sign for each chunk of computer 
output at EDS, but nobody cared unless 
it was checks or something. So one day I 
wrote "Washington Irving," and later, 
for variety, "Irving Washington." Soon 
I was completely out of control — I blush 
to admit that I signed the names of 
many of the best and brightest; General 
Wastemoreland, Lt. Calley, Elmo 
Zumwalt, Capt. Ernest Medina, Allen 
Dulles, etc. It all came to an end one day 
when the mailroom supe in Oakland 
said, "Primo, your name isn't 


Processed World 

McGeorge Bundy. Who is he?" A brief 
lesson on the roots of the Viet Nam war 
followed, and I was solemnly warned 
not to do it again. I think I convinced 
them that I was a little bit strange. 

There was also sabotage. 

Some of it was pure self-defense; 
papers that couldn't be found didn't 
have to be delivered. There was not a lot 

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of that. There were also cases where 
bikes or vehicles were incapacitated, 
and of course the old standards — long 
breaks or calling in sick. There was 
some thievery, but not much. Mostly we 
didn't carry anything worth anything to 
anybody. US Customs generates an 
enormous amount of verbal garbage. 
My first act involved a shipment of 

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Once More Unto the Bridge, Dear Friend 


tear gas, gas guns and some training 
rounds being shipped to West 
Germany. Because I had friends in that 
faroff land I was kept informed of the 
anti-nuclear struggle and its massive 
absorption of CN gas. The papers were 
somehow lost, but all I had were 
duplicates of stuff; I slowed it up but I 
couldn't stop it. I did handle stuff 
everyday that I regarded as 
questionable: documents to the free 
lands of Korea, weird tariff agreements 
from GATT, internal documents on the 
stability of such countries as Iran. All 
these, and more, I did deliver correctly 
and on time. But one day I was pawing 
swiftly through the bundle for my 
airport run when my eye was caught by 
the destination of one pile — "Director, 
Servicios de Inteligencia; Ejercito de 
Argentina." In my hand was a fat wad 
of papers — original AWB (Air Way 
Bill), a letter of credit and extension, 
the customs export clearances (with 
State Department approval), truckers 
way bill (original), import documents, 
etc. The whole enchilada, all originals, 
for a microfiche machine being sent to 
the Army of Argentina's Intelligence 
Service. This was in 76-77 and the dirty 
war, which the mass media here only 
reported on years later, was in full 
swing. The desaparecidos, the dead 
and maimed, the secret jails, the 
suffocating terror... And the bastards 
wanted me to help ship them this high 
tech little wonder that would let them 
catalogue hordes of people in one 
convenient place. If I had had 
appropriately dressed friends and a 
truck, I could've taken the little gizmo 
home with me (the person who has the 
originals is the de-facto owner). Instead 
the papers somehow got lost, and I'm 
sure the damned thing sat on some- 
body's loading dock for a long time; to 
reissue all those papers I took, every 
single step would have to be retaken. 
They probably concluded, eventually, 
that it was "enemy action." Suck on it, 
you bloody little momios; a clerk who 
loses papers can hurt you as much as a 
mechanic that shorts circuits your toy. 

In this modern world, without the 
"paperwork" the thing doesn't move; 
more effectively halted than if 
padlocked to an I-Beam. 

All you paper pushers out there 
remember; most, if not all, of it is 
actually garbage and you could better 
spend your time in bed or in the garden, 
but you can hurt them; a little snip here 
and a dropped digit there... 

A few years ago the Federal Reserve 
Bank changed the form on which the US 
banks' reserves were reported, and a 
clerk fucked up and didn't fill out one 
part of it for a large Eastern bank; the 
Fed thought the money supply had 
dropped and so increased the supply of 
US currency, which of course didn't do 
what it was supposed to. Enormous 
problems all because of a piece of 

The 'on-the-job' protests could only 
do so much; they kept some pride but 
couldn't really change the facts of 
endless job, going nowhere, with too 
little money for all the problems. Late 
one night I passed a Pinto on the 
bridge — I didn't notice anybody in it but 
there was a woman nearby at the phone 
on the side of the bridge. A moment of 
driving and the rearview mirror 
revealed a sheet of almost silken flames 
against the sky and a silhouette of a 
burning car that was careening past the 
Pinto. And then I was out of sight. 

A few days later the clowns that 
controlled my days played a little too 
fast, a little too loose (too many boxes to 
go the wrong way on a one way street at 
noon hour, up a small elevator, etc.). I 
walked over to the phone and made a 

Chota — US Southwest and Mexican] 
slang for a cop; like Dan White. 
Momios: Chilean slang for mummy. 
Reagan is a momio. 

yPatron = Boss. You probably have one.| 

[Milagro = a miracle. 

^Desaparecido = "Disappeared" per-i 
son, by the police or army. Not\ 
recognized as a prisoner by the^ 

i government. 

call to the office; the patron wasn't in so 
I talked to a fellow serf. "Jim, I can't 
take this shit any longer. I quit. The 
truck is here at the Blue Cross Building, 
the keys are in it. Bye." He wished me 
luck. I took the elevator down to the 
basement, ignoring the outraged 
squawks from the head of the mail 
room, checked out with the guard (yeah 
man I quit, can't take their shit any 

more, bye) and walked home. Dazed, 
nervous (no geld, and no recom- 
mendation from that boss; hell, he 
might try to have me run down). A grim 
feeling, but also a good one. No more, 
bastards! You've shafted me for the last 
time. I don't ever have to drive out onto 
that bridge again. 

— by Primitivo Morales 


(for Ruven, with love) 

For nine years, he clowned his way 
from Israel to London to the sea 
in Thailand where, in his mid-thirties, 
he learned to swim. 

Tired of the hustle, enrolls in 

computer school, adds COBOL and BASIC 

to mime and juggling, a way to get through. 

Jubilantly, he quits his first programming 
job after seven months. Next stop: 

San Francisco!, where the hope was part-time 
program, part-time perform, 
but not enough pay 
to see a fool perform. 

Enter: the Devil (disguised as Headhunterj 

who offers such a deal: 

well-paying, full-time work with benefits, 

two weeks paid vacation, just come 

to this climate-controlled office 

five days a week the other fifty weeks 

of the year, and now, set up a program 

so we can do accounts receivable, 

number of cans of carrots, peas, etc. 

in warehouses in Fresno and Modesto... 

I watch him this morning 

as he forces himself from bed, 

dressing for the day's performance 

in loafers, slacks, white shirt and tie 

and the inevitable masque of the professional 

David Steinberg 


Hi-Tech Workers Network 

The Hi Tech Workers Network 
(HTWN) is a group of production, 
maintenance, technical, and clerical 
workers in a variety of high tech 
companies who know from experience 
that the hi tech industry "is not what it's 
cracked up to be." 

Centered in the Boston area, HTWN 
speaks to the thousands of workers in the 
Route 128 strip, Massachusetts' 
somewhat less glamorous equivalent of 
Silicon Valley. They believe hi tech 
workers should organize ' 'to win respect, 
fight discrimination, and make 
improvements in wages and working 
conditions." Through their newsletter, 
theHiTech Workers Monitor, and events 
such as forums and filmshowings, 
HTWN disseminates information about 
hazardous substances used in the 
industry, encourages assertion of 
employee rights, and gives tips and 
support to workers who are organizing on 
the job. 

Last year the HTWN won a cushy 
settlement for one of their members who 
had been fired from Digital Corporation 
on trumped up charges of "falsifying 
company records." The worker was late 
back from lunch a couple of times and had 
not recorded it on her time card, a sin 
usually punished by a warning notice. 
The real reason for her dismissal was 
that she had been stirring up trouble 
among co-workers, demanding better 
wages and distributing the Monitor. 

With the help of other members of 
HTWN the case was taken first to the 
NLRB, which, true to its fashion, 

dragged its heels over the issue. 
According to Rand Wilson, one of the 
Network's main movers (and a 
long-time labor organizer who now 
works for CWA), the HTWN soon 
decided the NLRB was "worthless" and 
took matters into their own hands, leaf- 
letting Digital workers and doing their 
own legal legwork. Digital soon 
responded with a palatable offer, and 
the case was settled out of court. The 
employee's record was cleared, she was 
promised good references, and awarded 
a sum of money that could not be 
publically disclosed according to the 
terms of the settlement. (Digital 
obviously didn't want other workers to 
get any ideas). If you would like to get in 
touch with the High Tech Workers 
Network or receive their newsletter, 
write to High Tech Workers Network, 
P.O. Box 441001, West Somerville, MA 

Ms Meg 

.. SURE BOSS PV£ /f££ S£/NG 

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into heavy, alcoholic level of 
drinking, marathon dope 
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and criticism of just about every 
political group or movement for 
social change. 
— A Subscriber 

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Five O'clock Shadow